The U.S. Department of Agriculture unveiled final rules for school breakfast and lunch today, about a year after they were first proposed.
Here at Care2, we’ve been following the school food debate over this past year: whether it was the uproar over starchy vegetables such as potatoes, corn, peas and lima beans, or the debate over the tomato paste on a slice of pizza counting as a vegetable. (See below for the results.)
The idea was that these new regulations would ensure that the nearly 32 million children who eat lunch at school every day, and the almost 11 million who eat breakfast, would be served healthier meals based on sound nutrition guidance.
“A Red-Letter Day For Nutrition”
From Education Week:
The announcement was made here(Alexandria, Virginia) at Parklawn Elementary school, with First Lady Michelle Obama, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and celebrity chef Rachael Ray on hand to eat along with children, who were choosing from the kind of menu that will soon be required of all schools in the country. Students at Parklawn Elementary were eating turkey tacos with brown rice, and had a choice of different types of fresh melon or strawberries and kiwi as a side dish, among other items.
“It’s a red-letter day for nutrition,” Secretary Vilsack said in a call with reporters. “This is the most significant change we’ve seen in nutrition standards in a generation.”
Their original proposal for the new school-meal rules was tweaked based upon tens of thousands of opinions and actions by Congress, which successfully chipped away at some of the changes USDA wanted to make.
* Students must be provided with double the amount of fruits and vegetables as in the past
* All grain products served must be whole-grain rich
* All milk offered must be low-fat or fat-free
* There are limits on sodium
* Meals will have calorie minimums and maximums.
Not So Healthy Decisions
Plans for other big changes the USDA hoped to make were squelched, however. Congress prevented the agency from limiting servings of starchy vegetables, including white potatoes, corn, lima beans, and peas. The USDA also wanted to end the practice of counting tomato paste, including the sauce on a slice of pizza, as a serving of vegetables. But politics got in the way of that change, too.
Overall, though, these new standards are a great step forward. Vilsack said the 32 million students who eat school meals each day will still see fewer starchy vegetables because there are minimum requirements of many other types of veggies—dark green, orange, and red—that must be served in a given week.
Some school districts, which have been adjusting their lunches to boost the amount of whole-grain items served, adding more fruits and vegetables, and serving low-fat and fat-free milk, have said the new meals will be too expensive to prepare, and despite a required boost in school-meal prices charged to students and more money from the USDA per meal, they will struggle to pay for all the new requirements.
Not All Kids Love Healthy Meals
Of course, not all kids are fans of healthier school meals, so that could pose a dilemma. What do you pack your kids for lunch? How do you strike the balance between what they want to eat and what they should be eating?
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