USDA Announces New Proposed School Food Regulations

by Bettina Elias Siegel on January 13, 2011

Pursuant to the recently passed Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, the USDA will announce today new proposed rules governing school food.

According to USA Today, the rules, if adopted, would:

Decrease the amount of starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, corn and green peas, to one cup a week.

Reduce sodium in meals over the next 10 years. A high school lunch now has about 1,600 milligrams of sodium. Through incremental changes, that amount should be lowered over the next decade to 740 milligrams or less of sodium for grades through 9 through 12; 710 milligrams or less for grades 6 through 8; 640 milligrams or less for kindergarten through fifth grades.

Establish calorie maximums and minimums for the first time. For lunch: 550 to 650 calories for kindergarten through fifth grade; 600 to 700 for grades 6 through 8; 750 to 850 for grades 9 through 12.

Serve only unflavored 1% milk or fat-free flavored or unflavored milk. Currently, schools can serve milk of any fat content.

Increase the fruits and vegetables kids are offered. The new rule requires that a serving of fruit be offered daily at breakfast and lunch and that two servings of vegetables be offered daily at lunch.

Over the course of a week, there must be a serving of each of the following: green leafy vegetables, orange vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, summer squash), beans, starchy and other vegetables. This is to make sure that children are exposed to a variety of vegetables.

Increase whole grains substantially. Currently, there is no requirement regarding whole grains, but the proposed rules require that half of grains served must be whole grains.

Minimize trans fat by using products where the nutrition label says zero grams of trans fat per serving.

The USDA seeks public comment on the proposed rules between now and April 13, 2011.

As discussed at length here on TLT, the new school food legislation provides schools with only an additional six cents per meal served and it’s unclear whether schools will be able to meet the new nutritional standards with that level of funding.   USA Today quotes Nancy Rice, president of the School Nutrition Association, as saying that schools are going to have to “stretch limited food-service dollars. We are going to have to do the best we can and to try to cut in other areas.”

You can read the full USA Today piece here.

If my schedule permits, I’m going to try to get on a media call later today with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack regarding the new school food rules.  If I learn anything of substance beyond what’s reported here, I’ll update you in a future post.

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