School Lunch Standards in America

School Lunch Standards In America

Fri 23 Sep 2011

Story by The Food Revolution Team

The National School Lunch Program feeds 32 million kids a day in nearly every community in America.

The school districts receiving the federal funds for this program must abide by standards set by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). These standards are not ensuring that kids get the kind of fresh and healthy meals so important to their health & their future.

Based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) these standards include:

• Overall sodium
• Overall fat (no more than 30% of calories), and saturated fat (no more than 10%)
• Offering of milk
• Combination of protein, grains, fruit, and vegetables
• Costs about $2.77 (the federal reimbursement rate)

This means that what is being served is what the government and school nutrition industry consider a “nutritionally balanced” meal.

The big “But…”

But… a meal that meets that federal standards for reimbursement can still be highly processed and resemble “junk food”.

A reimbursable meal can still contain lot’s of starchy vegetables, lots of white flour, highly processed chicken or beef, flavored milk, and no fresh fruits or vegetables.

A new law regarding Child Nutrition was signed at the end of 2010, and we are awaiting the final regulation. Entrenched interests are threatening to roll back the advances that were made. The new law should mean lunch nutrition has to meet stronger Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommendations, including:

• Cap on calories for the first time
• Decreases in sodium over coming years
• More fresh fruits and vegetables, with specifications for colored and leafy veg
• Elimination of trans fats
• Milk limited to no-fat flavored or plain and low-fat plain
• French fries no more than once a week
• Smaller maximum meat and grain portions
• More whole grains
• Plus, for the first time, regulations on “competitive” foods outside the lunch line, including vending machines, the “a la carte” lunch lines, and school stores

The Food Revolution stands for fresh, unprocessed, real food that’s good for kids and families. Read our Charter here.

There is still a way to go for all our kids to receive a truly healthy, fresh lunch. Improving school food standards is so important to the followers of the Food Revolution. We must keep working together with our school nutrition staff and government to get the best for our kids.

For more information:

Our “The Basics About School Lunch” fact sheet
USDA School Meals website
The Institute of Medicine: Review of National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program Meal Patterns and Nutrient Standards

The Food Revolution Team


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