First Lady Michelle Obama teamed up with Rachael Ray to unveil the biggest overhaul on school meals in more than 15 years. There will be more whole grains, less salt and a wider selection of fruits and vegetables and all milk must now be low fat. But the new rules do not go as far as the Administration had hoped.
NBC Nightly News reported that “based on the new government regulations, schools will begin to cut back on sodium, sugar, saturated fats and transfats and instead add more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains,”
Education Correspondent Rehema Ellis said. “Next fall you start to see something like this. Whole wheat spaghetti, more fresh fruits and vegetables and green vegetables, as well as 1% milk.”
“The quality of school meals has been hotly debated for years because one-third of children in the USA are overweight or obese,” USA Today points out.
“The rules released today apply to school meals; regulations for other foods such those served in à la carte lines, vending machines and stores will come later.”
The new plans “are designed to improve the health of nearly 32 million children who eat lunch at school every day and almost 11 million who eat breakfast.”
The Washington Post reports, “The meals will continue to include pizza and french fries because Congress, after heavy lobbying from the food industry, derailed the Obama administration’s original plan to limit tomato paste and starchy vegetables such as potatoes.”
However, “as the Agriculture Department was crafting the final guidelines, opponents raised concerns about the program’s estimated $6.8 billion price tag over the next five years and the financial burdens it would place on school districts.”
As a result, “the administration slashed the cost to $3.2 billion.”
“The updated school lunch standards are expected to spell the end of mystery meat and of ketchup as a vegetable, ushering in offerings such as whole wheat pasta, fresh cantaloupe, grilled chicken and chef salads,” the Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog adds.
“Schools are expected to phase in changes to their menus over the next three years, starting with the 2012-2013 school year,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “Some of the new guidelines do not break new ground – no more than 10% of school lunch calories should come from saturated fat, for instance.”
The Washington Post “The Checkup” blog reports the new “guidelines … place new restrictions on the number of calories (according to age group), milligrams of sodium and percentages of calories from saturated fat children’s meals may contain.”
What’s more, “they require half (and eventually all) of the grains served to be whole-grain-rich.”
The Wall Street Journal quotes first lady Michelle Obama, who said, “When we send our kids to school, we have a right to expect that they won’t be eating the kind of fatty, salty, sugary foods that we’re trying to keep from them when they’re at home.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 17% of kids between two and 19 years of age are obese.
Reuters reports schools will also receive an additional 6 cents per meal under the new plan and the USDA will also inspect school menus more frequently.
In a statement, the USDA said, “Food and beverages sold in vending machines and other school sites ‘will also contribute to a healthy diet.'”
“The new standards include offering fruits and vegetables every day, increasing whole grain-rich foods, serving only fat-free or low-fat milk, limiting calories based on children’s ages, and reducing the amounts of saturated fat, trans fats and sodium, according to a news release from the US Department of Agriculture,” HealthDay adds.