New federal school meal standards ramp up the grain servings students eating breakfast and lunch will receive and, for the first time, will require they all be from whole grain-rich sources.
USDA rolled out the new school meal regulations on Wednesday with the assistance of First Lady Michelle Obama.
The new meal requirements will modify the standards for the first time in 15 years, touching meals consumed by an estimated 32 million children each school day.
USDA highlighted five key changes in the new standards, including:
- substantially increasing offerings of whole grain-rich foods;
- ensuring students are offered both fruits and vegetables every day of the week;
- offering only fat-free or low-fat milk varieties;
- limiting calories based on the age of children being served to ensure proper portion size; and
- increasing the focus on reducing the amounts of saturated fat, trans fats and sodium.
Existing lunch standards called for eight servings a week, a minimum of one per day, of grains, with whole grains encouraged. The new standards set required minimum daily and weekly servings, based on grade level, with at least half of grains required to be whole grain rich beginning on July 1 of this year. By July 2014, all grains must be whole grain rich.
Current breakfast standards call for daily meals to include either two grains, two meats or one of each. The new standards set daily minimums for grains alone, again varying by grade level, and require half of those grains to be whole grain rich by July 1, 2013, with all of them whole grain rich by July 1, 2014.
The Wheat Foods Council, wheat farmers’ nutrition education organization, embraced the new requirements while also reminding legislators of the importance of enriched grain products.
A full statement from WFC is at http://www.wheatfoods.org/blog/2012/01/26/wheat-foods-council-statement-usda-school-meal-nutrition-standards.
USDA developed the new standards based on recommendations from an expert panel and the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which is the latest revision of the government’s nutritional guidelines.
The Department said it received 132,000 comments on the proposed standards, which are part of a larger law, the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, passed in 2010. The law also provides increased funding for school meals; offers technical assistance and training to help schools reach the new standards; and regulates other food available in schools, for example, through vending machines.
Much more about the new school meal standards is online at http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/Governance/Legislation/nutritionstandards.htm.