On January 26, 2012, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released new standards for school-meals intended to result in healthier meals for children across the nation. These new meal requirements are part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, and change standards for school meals for the first time in over fifteen years. The updated lunch standards are effective for September 2012, and the new breakfast standards effective one year later.
USDA built the new rules around recommendations from a panel of experts convened by the Institute of Medicine, and included key changes from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. USDA also considered an unprecedented 132,000 public comments on its proposed standards (available on the web at www.regulations.gov) – and made modifications to the proposed rule where appropriate.
Beginning in September, school lunches will need to meet standards requiring:
• Age-appropriate calorie limits,
• Larger servings of vegetables and fruits, with students being required to take a least one half-cup serving of fruit or vegetables,
• A wider variety of vegetables offered throughout the week, including specific dark green and red/orange vegetables and legumes,
• Half of all grain products offered be whole grain,
• Only fat-free or low-fat milk varieties be offered, and
• Increased focus on reducing the amounts of saturated fat, trans fats and sodium in meals.
Anoka-Hennepin Schools’ Child Nutrition Program was aware that these new standards were on the way, and has taken many steps toward meeting them over the last several years. Much more detail about the new standards can be found on the USDA’s Nutrition Standards for School Meals website at www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/Governance/Legislation/nutritionstandards.htm