12/9/12 - The Associated Press - The USDA is responding to criticism about new school lunch rules by allowing more grains and meat in kids’ meals...by doing away with (the new) daily and weekly maximums. The guidelines (of the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Acts, that went into effect 9/12) were intended to address increasing childhood obesity levels. They set limits on calories and salt, and phase in whole grains. (Some parents and school administrators are) saying that kids aren’t getting enough to eat. MORE PDF
School Lunches To Be Allowed Unlimited Meats, Grains (12/8/12 - Huffington Post)
September 1, 2012
As a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act – championed by First Lady Michelle Obama and signed into law by President Obama in 2010 – students will see major changes to their school meals in the 2012-13 school year.
The new meal standards, outlined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), require that school meals align with the latest nutritional science. In light of the rise of childhood obesity nationwide, the role of school lunches is no longer to simply feed undernourished children (which was why the federal school lunch program was started many years ago) but to educate students about making healthy food choices.
The changes are the first in 15 years to the $11 billion school lunch program that serves about 32 million students around the country.
One of the biggest changes taking place is the introduction of meal calorie limits. School lunches must not exceed 650 calories for grades K-5, 700 calories for grades 6-8 and 850 calories for grades 9-12.
In addition, 50 percent of the breads and grains (pasta, tortillas, rice, etc.) must be whole grain-rich (as opposed to white) and there will be a reduction in the portion sizes of breads and grains served during each five-day period. Next year, 100 percent of the breads and grains offered will be whole grain-rich. All milk will continue to be low fat or fat free.
As a result of these changes, fruits and vegetables will become the focus and main portion of each school lunch. All students purchasing lunch will be required to take a minimum of three food components, one of which must be either a fruit or a vegetable. This is so the district is eligible to receive federal and state meal reimbursements.
Also, students will start seeing a wider variety of vegetables. A requirement of the new law is that schools serve legumes, dark green vegetables and red/orange vegetables at least once a week. Another requirement is that sodium content and juice consumption also decrease.
The changes that took effect in July are just the first steps in a three-year plan to phase-in the new standards. Changes to breakfasts and snacks served in school will happen during the next two years.
Overall, the new standards will cost about $3.2 billion to implement over the next five years, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, but the government plans to reimburse schools an additional six cents per meal to help offset the cost of buying more fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grain foods.
Even with the additional reimbursement, many districts around the state may need to increase lunch prices because the new law requires them to set their school lunch prices on an equitable level with the free and reduced lunch reimbursements from the federal National Food Service Program. The requirement – referred to as the “Paid Lunch Equity” rule – states that the price of a school lunch must be at least the difference between the federal reimbursement rate for a free and paid lunch.
Change is always difficult; however the changes to school lunch are a step in the right direction in combating childhood obesity and helping children develop lifelong healthy eating habits.
For more information or questions, please contact School Lunch Manager Andrew Yeomans at 794-8840, ext. 10970 or via email at email@example.com.
For more information on the Dietary Guidelines and to learn more about the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act please visit the following websites:
Choose My Plate (USDA)
"New School Food Regulations" (Press Release - 4/21/12 - WNYT)
United States Department of Agriculture Press Release (January 2012)
New menu items on the horizon for school lunches (January