Students to See Healthier School Lunches Under New USDA Rules
By Sylvia Wood, msnbc.com
Millions of schoolchildren in the United States will see more fruit and vegetables and less fat on their lunch plates under new U.S. Department of Agriculture standards unveiled Wednesday aimed at improving child nutrition and reducing childhood obesity.
"Improving the quality of the school meals is a critical step in building a healthy future for our kids," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "When it comes to our children, we must do everything possible to provide them the nutrition they need to be healthy, active and ready to face the future – today we take an important step towards that goal."
The changes mark the first overhaul of the school lunch program in more than 15 years and will affect the nearly 32 million children who eat at school. The new regulations will be phased in over the next three years, starting in the fall.
“We strongly support the regulations,” said Diane Pratt-Heavner, spokeswoman for the Maryland-based School Nutrition Association. “The new nutrition standards for school meals are great news for kids.”
Under the new regulations, schools will be required to offer fruits and vegetables every day, increase the amount of whole-grain foods and reduce the sodium and fats in the foods served. Schools will also be required to offer only fat-free or low-fat milk. In addition, the menus will pay attention to portion sizes to make sure children receive calories appropriate to their age, according to Kevin Concannon, USDA under secretary for food, nutrition and consumer services.