School meal changes to include more whole grains and veggies
As a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act – championed by the First Lady and signed into law by President Obama in 2010 – students will see major changes to their school meals in the coming school year.
The new meal standards, outlined by the United States Department of Agriculture, 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.
Fewer Calories; More Fruits and Vegetables
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, all breads and grains (pasta, tortillas, rice) must be whole wheat (as opposed to white) and there will be a reduction in the amount of breads/grains served over each five-day period. 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.
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 will 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.
This was why Gloversville raised meal prices for the 2012-2013 school. year.
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. Anyone with questions about the new law, or school lunch/breakfast, should contact the Gloversville School Nutrition Office at 775-5708.
Visit the Quick Link's What's for Lunch page to see the newest school lunch menus.
The changes slated to take effect in September are just the first steps in a three-year plan to phase-in the new standards. Changes to breakfast meals and snacks served in school will happen over the next two years.
Click on the links below to learn more about the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act:
States Department of Agriculture Healthy Meals Resource System
•United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service
•United States Department of Agriculture Press Release (January 2012)
•Food Research and Action Center
Follow the links below for general nutrition and meal information for school and home:
Communities for Healthy School Meals
•Choose My Plate (United States Department of Agriculture)
•Cornell Cooperative Extension
•Alliance for a Healthier Generation: Healthy Schools Program
•National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: Fun Family Recipes & Tips
•Healthy Meal Planning Made Simple
•Rachael Ray's non-profit Yum-O! organization