New Focus on Nutrition in School Lunch Programs

by Renée Canada

Some heads were spinning when Congress ruled in November that tomato paste on pizza would count as a vegetable, and many protested the refusal to limit weekly servings of starchy foods like potatoes. Yet the general consensus is praise for the new nutrition standards announced last Wednesday by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for school lunches.

These proposed requirements cut calories, trim fat and salt, and provide more whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables in the federally supported National School Lunch Program. They are the first significant changes to school food meals in more than 15 years. For the first time ever, they also set a cap on the calories allowed per meal.

Approximately 32 million children eat school lunches and breakfasts, providing half of many children’s daily calories, according to USDA.

New federal regulations were established for minimum and maximum calories per meal. For elementary school students, lunches must be between 550 and 650 calories. For middle school, 600-700 calories, and for high school, student lunches must provide between 750 and 850 calories.

Find out more about the new USDA nutrition guidelines for the school lunch programs here.


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