Thursday, January 13, 2011

How school lunches are changing

We have been keeping a close eye on the school lunch debate to try and find out what exactly will be changing. Today the USDA released a few specifics like slowly limiting the salt in food, more whole grains, a fruit and vegetable with each meal and less fat. I am working on a story locally on this to see how school districts are going to make this happen by April. I am sure it will be challenging for some districts, but I hope it ends up being a good thing for our kids.

FROM NBC: For the first time in a generation, the USDA is proposing sweeping changes to boost the nutrition of the nation's school lunch program. It's a move some -kids- have actually requested! The school lunch line is about to get a long-awaited makeover.

The USDA is calling on school cafeterias to add more fruit, and cut back on starchy staples like french fries.
Dora Rivas- School Nutrition Association: "We have to keep in mind that the students have to eat the food, and so making it tasty and healthy is going to be one of our biggest challenges." Dora Rivas is a registered dietitian and executive with the Dallas, Texas school system. Her schools have already been implementing healthier choices ... replacing refined grains with heart-healthy whole grains and brown rice. So far, so good.

Dora Rivas- School Nutrition Association: "Many of the students on their own have been asking us for healthier food options on the cafeteria line, so I think they will welcome the changes." Some of the USDA's changes will take longer than others: The amount of sodium in meals will be cut in small increments over the next decade so kids' tastebuds will have a chance to adjust.
Other proposed changes include: establishing a maximum number of calories allowed for each meal, cutting the fat content of milk, and offering a greater variety of vegetables. The agency attributes the proposed changes to the growing obesity epidemic.

Tom Vilsack - Secretary of Agriculture: "We're very concerned about the fact that a third of our youngsters are at risk of being obese or in fact obese, and there are serious consequences to not getting our arms around this problem right now."
Schools that meet the new requirements will receive an extra 6-cents of federal funding per meal. And it's up to each school district to figure out how to adjust the budget to meet the guidelines.

The rules are expected to take effect sometime after a public comment period that ends in April.
Overall -- kids consume a third to half of their daily calories at school. The new rules would not apply to school vending machines.

-NewsAnchorMom Jen

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