- Published on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 19:48
- Written by Jackie Jones, BlackAmericaWeb.com
There are better meals in school cafeterias this year, thanks to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, designed to fight child hunger, combat obesity and improve the health and nutrition of the nation’s students.
Schools are phasing in new nutrition standards over a three-year period, starting with lunches in this first year and moving on to changes in breakfast menus in subsequent years.
The new rules are designed to ensure:
• Students are offered both fruits and vegetables each day
• There are more whole grain-rich foods offered, along with low-fat or fat-free milk
• Portion sizes are better controlled to provide more age-appropriate caloric intake
• Food contains less saturated fat, trans fat and sodium
It is the first time in more than 15 years that nutrition requirements have been updated for school meal programs. The effort is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was championed by First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her “Let's Move!” campaign that was signed into law by President Obama.
Audrey Rowe, the administrator for the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is charged with overseeing 15 nutrition assistance programs and education efforts that help children and needy families.
Most recently, Rowe served as Deputy Administrator for Special Nutrition Programs at FNS, which led the effort to pass the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
In addition to FNS programs, Rowe has served as Human Resources Administrator in New Haven, Connecticut, and Social Services Commissioner for the State of Connecticut and the District of Columbia. In addition, she served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for the National Urban League.
But Rowe is not a run-of-the-mill administrator. She has gone on the road to look at how the changes are being implanted and seeking feedback from students about the food.
At a stop at Perrysburg High School in Ohio, several students lamented that soup had been taken off the menu. Rowe talked with school officials about ways to keep down the costs of healthier meals and shared ideas from other school districts, including developing partnerships with local farmers. The administrator at Perrysburg told Rowe that the school was developing a new menu. And, yes, soup will make a comeback, according to The Toledo Blade.
She told the Perrysburg students to call her when new recipes were out, adding, "You gotta invite me back to try the soup."
For information about FNS and nutrition programs, visit www.fns.usda.gov.
How can school systems with low budgets provide GOOD food to children?
Schools that meet the new standards can earn extra reimbursements that can help cover the cost to serve healthier meals. Also, schools that serve more meals earn more income to help their overall budget. Getting students involved in menu planning and taste testing can increase student participation and overall acceptance of new foods.
Is it true that schools in INNER CITIES get bad foods while SUBURBS get the healthy food?
All schools participating in the meal programs get reimbursed for each meal served. Lower income schools get extra. In addition USDA offers healthy foods to all schools to help them serve nutritious meals, including fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grain products. We encourage parents to work with school food service and school administration to develop menus according to what the students like.
Why is food not cooked anymore in schools and everything instead is processed, put in a microwave or warmed up?
Not every school has equipment to cook food on site. We are hearing however, that more schools are going back to scratch cooking with these new meal requirements. We also know that the food industry is working very hard to develop products that fit into the new standards and that students will like.
They lost my kids with all the healthy stuff. Can the healthy food be a little more tasty?
We want school lunches to be the healthiest meals we can serve. Working together USDA, parents, and the school community can make these changes happen to feed every child the nutritious foods they deserve.
Why are school lunches so nasty?
Schools are in a transition year. Naturally, some places are adjusting to the new standards more easily than others, but it can be done. In fact, thousands of schools are already at or near the new standards. Many schools use taste testing as a way to plan menus for students. Under offer vs serve, once menus are planned, students can choose from a variety of options within each food category.
I have been teaching for 32 years and eating the lunches. I love the new school lunches. The vegetables and fruits are fresh... I can tell a big difference. No more yellow meals (mac and cheese, corn, cornbread, chicken nuggets)
Thanks for the support! Teachers play an important role in educating students about nutrition and modeling healthy habits.
You just mentioned a student can go back in the line for fruit and vegetables. Is that the case for elementary schools in Jacksonville, Florida? Will They have to compromise processed food for fresh because of cost?
Managing the lunchroom is a local decision but there is no limit on the amount of fruits and vegetables served as long as calorie requirements are met.
How many meals does the calorie limit expand over?
The calories are averaged over the week for each age grade group. Elementary school kids get 550-650 calories. Middle school kids get 600-700 calories. High school students get 750-850 calories.
Why are you serving so much food with so much sodium? My child can't eat school lunch because of the sodium content. Obesity is an issue. So is hypertension.
Sodium will be gradually decreasing over the next 10 years so students can adjust to the new flavors and to give the food industry time to develop new products.
Great idea. Kids are not eating this food! They waste so so much of it. Bottom line they are not eating food. If you want to save an apple for later to eat, kids can't leave the cafeteria with that fruit or any fruit. They have to eat it there or throw it away.
We are also concerned about food waste. We encourage schools to use offer vs serve which allows students to take only foods they plan to eat. Under the new requirement students must take either a fruit or a vegetable. Some students may not eat it at first but as they become familiar with these foods they will eat them.
Why do schools offer fruit juice? Way too high in sugar. Didn't have that when I was a kid. We teachers have a hard enough time getting children to pay attention and focus. Furthermore, as a parent, I can't block fruit juice on my child's account without a doctor's note. Ridiculous.
Schools are not required to offer fruit juice. They are allowed to serve up to half of their fruit requirement as 100 percent juice. We encourage parents to work with schools to develop healthy menus. Learn more at http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/healthierschoolday/default.htm
I am a parent with a freshman in high school. She is not overweight but she says kids get snacks out of a machine and those snacks are not calorie counted. Why do they even put the junk food machines in schools? It defeats the purpose of eating healthy in school.
The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 directed USDA to create nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools during the school day. We are currently working to develop those standards.
My kids have multiple food allergies. How can I get the cafeteria ladies to give alternate choices?
The meal pattern offers flexibility to accommodate most special dietary needs. Schools are required to offer alternate meals for children with disabilities. Parents should work with their child's school and physician to create a plan to help meet their needs.
My son plays football & 850 calories is not enough, his physical output is more than his calorie intake. Some children need more calories than others.
School lunches are designed to meet roughly one-third, of the daily calorie needs of school children. Under the new standards, school meals are "right-sized" and reflect the appropriate balance between food groups. Schools can structure after-school snack and supper programs to include service to athletes. In addition, individual students and/or sports teams can also supplement food provided through Federal programs with items provided from home or other sources.
Good morning Dr. R (school lunch administrator ). I recently had lunch with my daughter and I thought it was odd that they had no juice or water.
Fluid milk is required to be offered at lunchtime. Schools are not required to serve juice. Water is required to be made available to students. Parents should work with schools to make sure students have appropriate beverage choices at lunch.