Michelle Obama Helps Debut Healthier School Lunches

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.

Healthy Decisions

*  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?

Related Stories

Pizza: School Lunches’ New Ketchup

Want A Healthy School Meal? Some Senators Are Saying “No Way!”

Arizona Proposes Ending Free School Lunches For Needy Kids

Photo Credit: iStock


William C
William C2 months ago


W. C
W. C2 months ago

Thank you for the article.

Jim Ven
Jim Vabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Melissa L.
Melissa L4 years ago

It could start a trend. . Get a few eating healthy, more will follow. . Bet ya!

Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Ginger M.
Ginger M.5 years ago

My grand daughter eats like a bird, but the skimpy lunch her school has been serving since Michelle Obama instigated her 'healthy lunch' program leaves her so hungry that she gets hunger headaches at school. She is not alone. Many other kids are saying the same thing. The lunches are limited to 850-900 calories. This may seem like a lot, but for a growing kid, especially for those that are in sports or the JROTC program, it leaves a lot to be desired. These high schoolers must walk miles of hallways from class to class and getting a skimpy lunch leaves them unable to think. Her first lunch was a piece of 'cheesy' garlic bread, a forth of an apple and 4 oz of orange juice. She has been coming home crying from hunger headaches. Plus, protein is limited to 7 oz per week. I doubt Michelle's kids are forced to eat this crap. But, then again, our taxes pay for them to have a chef to prepare their breakfast, lunch and dinner. Our kids can go without apparently.

Yulan Lawson
Yulan Lawson5 years ago

Wow, a lot more needs to be done.

Lindsay S.
Lindsay Saltsman5 years ago

I think it's hilarious that people are actually thanking Michelle Obama for this. Have any of you even seen what this has done to the lunches that are offered at schools? It's already making the news around here. I can't wait until it makes national news! Don't know what it looks like? Take a look at this link, and then tell me if you'd let YOUR kids eat it.I bet The First Lady would NEVER let her kids eat something like this!!! http://tinypic.com/r/2vvm792/6 What a tragedy... Seriously... I'm completely outraged over this!!!

Tanja Z.
Tanja Zilker5 years ago

Thanks michelle!
In school, it should give more vegetables and fruit to eat!