Audrey Rowe, Administrator for the Food and Nutrition Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said in a recent visit to MN…“the aim for these changes is not just to get kids eating better…we hope it will rub off on parents at home. If kids are experiencing fruits and vegetables at school, they will ask for them at home.”
Here are the requirements for school lunches:
Fruits: More daily servings of fruit will be offered
• Grades K-8: One-half cup per day
• Grades 9-12: One cup per day
• Only half of the weekly fruit requirement can come from juice.
Vegetables: More daily servings of vegetables will be offered; including vegetables from subgroups
• Grades K-8: Three-quarters cup per day
• Grades 9-12: One cup per day
• Weekly requirements for vegetable subgroups, including dark green, red/orange, beans/peas, starchy and others.
Grains: At least half the grains offered must be whole grain rich. Beginning school year 2014, all grains offered must be whole grain rich
• Grades K-5: 8 to 9 servings per week
• Grades 6-8: 8 to 10 servings per week
• Grades 9-12: 10 to 12 servings per week
• Students should have at least one serving of grains each day, and one-half of offerings must be rich in whole grain.
Meats/Meat alternatives: New daily minimums and weekly ranges have been set
• Grades K-5: 8 to 10 ounces per week
• Grades 6-8: 9 to 10 ounces per week
• Grades 9-12: 10 to 12 ounces per week
• Nuts, tofu, cheese and eggs can be substituted for meat in some cases.
Milk: Offering only fat-free or low-fat milk
• Grades K-12: 1 cup per day
• Fat-free, low-fat and lactose-free milk options are allowable.
In addition to the above requirements that take affect this year, the federal government is for the first time imposing calorie and sodium limits on school lunch offerings. Dietary specifications (to be met on average over a week) are described below:
• By July 2014, sodium levels for lunches should not exceed:
• Grades K-5: 640 milligrams
• Grades 6-8: 710 milligrams
• Grades 9-12: 740 milligrams
• A timetable sets targets for further reducing sodium levels by 2022.
• No more than 10 percent saturated fats. No trans-fat, except for those naturally occurring in meat and dairy products.
• Grades K-5: 550 to 650 per day
• Grades 6-8: 600 to 700 per day
• Grades 9-12: 750 to 850 per day
• Calories can be averaged over the week.
To give you a better idea of what the changes will look like – take a look at this sample sheet ”Before/After Elementary School Lunch Menu“.
The school nutrition program needs the support of parents to succeed. This is a great time to talk to your child about the changes he/she will be experiencing in the lunchroom. Be positive and encourage them to give the healthier meals a chance and to try the new foods their school is offering. You may want to join your child for lunch and talk about the healthy options…or, simply introduce more healthy options at home. Parents are the primary role models for their children. When children see their parents choose healthy foods, they are more likely to choose and like them, as well.
Salty snacks, sugary drinks, pizza, ice cream, and french fries may soon be hard for students to purchase in school vending machines, school stores, and cafeteria à la carte lines. In the coming weeks, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is expected to issue its new national nutrition standards for foods (snacks and beverages) sold in schools. These standards could limit the amount of sugar, salt and fat foods could contain.
Any food or beverage that “competes” with the school lunch program is considered a “competitive food”. Today, kids are consuming more than half of their daily calories in school – unfortunately, more and more students are getting most of their calories from competitive foods like snacks and drinks, not meals.
A lot has changed since the USDA last updated there guidelines in 1979. The school food environment has dramatically altered and so has the health of our children. Students have access to a lot of varieties of foods and often they are not the healthiest. The soon proposed national nutrition standards comes at a time when more than one-third of U.S. children are overweight or obese.
A recent poll by the Kids’ Safe & Healthful Foods Project finds that the vast majority of voters are in favor of national nutrition standards for snacks and beverages sold in schools.
- 80 percent of voters favor national standards limiting the calories, fat, and sodium in snack and à la carte foods sold in U.S. schools; and
- 81 percent of voters are concerned about childhood obesity, including more than half (54 percent), who say they are very concerned.
Watch this video to learn more about the issue of snacks and beverages sold in schools.
What do you think – do sugar-sweetened beverages, candy bars and other unhealthy foods deserve a place in schools?