This year began the new School Lunch program. There were a lot of changes made and some confusion so I have outlined all of the new criteria.
Let’s begin with protein. The previous minimums were 1.5-2 oz per meal. Now, for K-8 the minimum is 1 oz and for grades 9-12 it is 2oz per meal. An addition to these standards was the inclusion of a weekly range. For K-5, there needs to be 8-10 oz weekly and 6-8 needs 9-10oz.
Next up is grains. Half of all grains served must be whole grains. By 2014, all grains will have to be whole grains.
Now I will talk about milk. Flavored milk is still included in lunches, but high fat milk is not. Skim and 1% will be the only types offered.
Currently, there are no new sodium restrictions, but rather there are goals for the future. Targets have been set for 2014, 2017 and 2022 in order to gradually reduce sodium in these meals.
Fruits and Veggies are next. The fruit and vegetable requirement has increase from a range of ½- ¾ cups to 1 ¼ to 2 cups per day. In addition to the increase in servings, vegetables have another set of rules. Every week lunches must include at least one dark green vegetable, an orange or red vegetable, a serving of legumes like peas and beans as well as one starchy vegetable. This forces schools to serve a variety which will offer a greater range of nutrients as well as expose students to different options that they may incorporate into their overall diet.
Finally, we have calories. The previous minimum was 825 calories and the new range is 750-850 calories. Student groups, specifically athletes, have spoken out against these changes, saying that they do not have the energy to engage in their respective sports. But looking at the numbers, you can see that the change was not as drastic as it has been portrayed. It is understandable that athletes may be hungry for more before their practices, but keep in mind most students are not this active and are overweight or obese. Being heavier early in life predisposes kids to a lifetime of chronic disease and trouble with weight management. In regards to school lunches, we need to respond to the rule rather than the exception and make lunch healthy for as many students as possible.
Change can be difficult and this transition period may have some kinks to work out, but overall, the new school lunch will help improve the health of our students. Give it a chance to settle in and I think that everyone will be pleasantly surprised in the near future.
What feedback have you heard about the new school lunches?