by Laura Sussely-Pope
With new U.S.D.A. standards unveiled Wednesday, aimed at reducing childhood obesity and improving child nutrition, millions of children will eat more fruit and veggies and less fat on their lunch trays!
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said,
"Improving the quality of the school meals is a critical step in building a healthy future for our kids. 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."
This is the first significant change in the school lunch program in 15 years and will impact about 32 million children. The new program will be phased in over the next 3 years and will begin next Fall.
Spokeswoman for the School Nutrition Association, Diane Pratt-Heavner, commented:
"We strongly support the regulations. The new nutrition standards for school meals are great news for kids."
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. They will be required to only offer fat-free or low-fat milk. In addition, the menus will have to be cognizant of portion sizes to make sure children receive calories appropriate to their age.
The new requirements are part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act signed into law last year by President Barack Obama and advocated by the First Lady as part of her "Let's Move!" campaign.
Mrs. Michelle Obama said,
"As parents, we try to prepare decent meals, limit how much junk food our kids eat, and ensure they have a reasonably balanced diet. And when we're putting in all that effort the last thing we want is for our hard work to be undone each day in the school cafeteria."
To support these changes, schools will receive 6 cents per meal in federal funding. The program is projected to cost $3.2 billion. Schools will also have more flexibility in designing school lunch lines to reduce waste -- it is anticipated that this will reduce costs.
What remains to be seen is whether the children will actually take to the new menus and indeed, whether all parents will support these efforts. We hope the answer to both is yes!
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