Big Wins for School Food in 2011, Despite Congress

Big Wins For School Food In 2011, Despite Congress

Thu 01 Dec 2011

Story by The Food Revolution Team

We have been sharing our disappointment that Congress bowed to industry pressure and weakened great new standards for school lunchby permitting French fries and pizza every day. Yet despite these last-minute setbacks, super important gains were made in 2011 on federal rules for school food. These improvements bode well for the Food Revolution. Read on to learn more.

When the final USDA meal standards are released this winter they will include historic improvements to the food on the tray. Other portions of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act will add money, jumpstart new programs, and usher in better community involvement in school food.

What Did We Get On the Tray?

The first major changes to school food standards in 15 years will still include:

• Double the overall fruits and vegetables each day at school meals, with specific requirements for each
• Specific requirements for good veggies like leafy greens and orange veg
Milk has to be low-fat, and only skim milk can be chocolate
• Access to clean, free drinking water
• More whole grains
• Limits on calories, sodium, saturated fat, and trans fats

Plus, local districts and States are free to set stronger nutritional standards and move more quickly on changes than the federal government requires.Your schools can get started right away!

What Did We Get Beyond the Tray?

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that passed in December of 2010 did much more than require new food standards. It means:

6 cents more funding per meal – while not enough, it’s the first increase in 30 years
Vital information about school menus must by law be easily accessible to parents and the community
Stronger Local School Wellness Policies, with required public input and a real implementation plan
• For the first time, baseline standards for all foods sold in schools, including chips in vending machines, candy at school stores, and sugary drinks in “a la carte” lunch lines.
Easier sign-up for families eligible for free and reduced school meals
More Farm to School, school garden, school breakfast, and local sourcing programs, plus an organic food pilot with preference for low-income districts
• Districts can no longer use federal meal funding to subsidize junk food or undercharge paying customers
• Better oversight that schools are meeting the rules, including audits every 3 years

Expect to hear lots more about the “competitive foods” – those vending machines, school stores, and food sales - that “compete” with the lunch line.

Once the final USDA nutrition standards are released this winter we will report more on when you can expect changes in your local school cafeterias, and on your rights are as parents and Food Revolutionaries.

Stay tuned!

The Food Revolution Team

Image: Slide taken from a USDA Food and Nutrition Service, Child Nutrition Division webinar

To learn more:
White House Fact Sheet on the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act when it passed
FRAC detailed overview of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act
A detailed summary of the school meal nutrition changes as the USDA proposed them
Non-partisan, science-based recommendations from the Institute of Medicine on which the USDA standards are based (by law)


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