Improved School Meal Standards Unveiled
On January 25th, First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled new science-based standards for school meals that will mean healthier meals for the 32 million American kids that participate in school meal programs every school day. The new requirements, a result of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, will raise standards for the first time in more than 15 years. And not a moment too soon.
According to the American Heart Association, about one in three American kids and teens is overweight or obese, nearly triple the rate in 1963. Childhood obesity is now the top health concern among parents in the United States, above drug abuse and smoking. School meals high in fats are partly to blame.
Green Schools Initiative Executive Director Deborah Moore urges, "Given the obesity epidemic among American kids, providing healthier food - and the funds to support such programs - should be an urgent priority that if achieved will help provide numerous multiplier benefits, cost-savings, and health care savings."
While the new standards are a giant step forward, Congress caved to powerful lobbying groups in November, 2011, weakening some standards. Those unwelcome changes included:
• Blocking limits on starchy vegetables to two times a week. The original legislation's intention was to cut down the use of french fries, which some schools serve every day.
• Allowing 2 tablespoons of tomato paste to be considered a "vegetable" serving.
• Delaying efforts to reduce sodium in school meals.
Rep. George Miller (D-CA), a champion of better school meal standards, said, "While I am disappointed that Congress jumped back into this process last year and weakened some standards at the behest of special interests, USDA did a good job at addressing legitimate concerns, reducing costs while still moving the country forward so our kids are healthier.”
- A Tool for Transforming School Food: Rethinking School Lunch Guide
- Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children