USDA (Finally) Takes Steps To Make School Lunches Safer

Healthy school lunches are a tradition in American Public schools, but recent reports about questionable sources for milk and beef, and investigations that found over 20,000 schools lacked required food inspections, have left many people wondering whether the USDA is trying to kill our kids.

Thanks to the diligent parents who signed petitions and made phone calls to their congressional representatives, the USDA recently announced sweeping reforms to “assure the safety and quality of food” purchased for the National School Lunch Program.

According to USA Today, “the measures include tightening requirements on companies that supply ground beef to schools, testing the beef more often and more thoroughly, and improving communications within the USDA to ‘identify potential food safety issues’ before children get sick. The initiatives come in the wake of a USA TODAY investigation that revealed failures in government programs intended to protect students from food-borne illnesses.”

While millions of families struggle to purchase healthy foods with their limited income, and childhood obesity and diabetes are growing at an alarming rate, Congress has systematically reduced funding for school lunches, until today’s schools have only $1 per child to buy ingredients.

This lack of funding has forced many schools to take part in the USDA’s commodities program for costly items such as meat and cheese. The program markets surplus food produced by the farmers and ranchers.

While this might seem like a cost effective strategy, it has proved disastrous in many cases, not the least of which occured in January of 2008 when one of the biggest beef suppliers for the National School Lunch Program was caught forcing cows that were ill and couldn’t walk into its slaughterhouse (USA Today).

The newspaper also found that McDonald’s and other fast-food chains are far more rigorous than the government in checking for bacteria and dangerous pathogens in beef.

“Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our Nation’s school children,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a February 4th press release. “We must do everything we can to ensure that our kids are being served safe, high quality foods at school. Today’s announcement demonstrates our commitment to constantly improving the safety and quality of foods purchased by USDA.”

Read the full press release for a complete list of intiatives to be implemented.

Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons - woodleywonderworks

57 comments

William C
William C6 months ago

Thank you.

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W. C
W. C6 months ago

Thanks.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R8 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R8 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R8 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R8 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R8 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Michael Cozens
Michael Cozens7 years ago

Typical Congressional material - cut funding from those without lobbyists, eg. the poor. Disgusting.

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Lionel Mann
Lionel Mann7 years ago

It is absolutely disgusting that school lunches should not be healthy. It only needs determination from school principals. At my last appointment I dismissed three cooks in succession until I found a good one. Then the children started going home and complaining that the food there was not as good as they received at school. Parents were always asking the cook for her recipes until she produced a book that we sold in aid of school funds. Staff also ate the meals. There was no choice of the daily main course and dessert, but new pupils seeing the others heartily tucking in and asking for "seconds" soon stopped being faddy. Our age-range was four to eleven or thirteen.
Menus covered a wide range from a variety of fresh salads to Wiener Schnitzel, Spaghetti Bolognaise, Boeuf Bourgignon, Hungarian Goulash, Stew with Norfolk Dumplings, Sweet and Sour Pork, Paella, Chicken Curry, etc., etc.,and all on a tight budget. We had arrangements with a carefully chosen grocer, greengrocer, butcher, that only organic food would be supplied and because we were regular, promptly-paying, large customers we received good deals. Situated in a seaside town, we could always obtain fresh fish at reasonable prices.
Our pupils had no obesity problems; gymnastics, games, athletics were an integral part of the curriculum. Too they often stayed quite late after school or came at weekends to play in the grounds or the gym. Go to it!

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Sharon Seltzer
Sharon Seltzer7 years ago

It sounds like the USDA has a long way to go before we can call school lunches - healthy. Our local school distict used to serve kids pizza with a side of french fries for lunch. They were'nt looking out for our kids health.

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