Wednesday, December 12, 2018

New federal rules impact school meal requirements

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released new rules for school meals. While USDA asserts the new rules “give schools more control over food service decisions and greater ability to offer wholesome and appealing meals that reflect local preferences,” as a partner working with schools on improving nutrition for all students, we believe the new rules reverse many of the gains made in the last several years toward ensuring students are receiving healthy meals at schools.

We work with schools every day to achieve their wellness goals, including around healthier school meals, and we want to help you understand what these new rules mean for schools and children across the country. In particular, the rules address sodium and whole grains as follows:

Sodium—Nine out of ten children consume too much sodium, which can raise blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and adult hypertension. However, the rules will allow schools to continue to exceed sodium levels in food beyond what government nutrition guidelines state as being safeSchools have been in the process of reducing sodium levels, but this rule will put a seven-year hold on requiring further reductions and eliminates the requirement to eventually meet safe levels.

Whole Grains—Schools have been required to serve whole grain products. In cases where 100% whole wheat products were not commercially available, schools could apply to their state for a waiver. The new rule will require that only half of the weekly grains in the school lunch and breakfast menu be whole grain-rich, thus allowing schools to use fewer products meeting 50% whole wheat.

Many schools have implemented healthy changes to meet the guidelines put in place as a result of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, and we expect many of them will continue in light of the positive benefits and outcomes and despite the flexibility provided under the new USDA rules. We are determined to help schools become healthier places so kids are better prepared to learn and live healthier lives.

Here are many ways you can join us in this effort, including:
Read how a small school in rural Colorado made changes to improve the taste and nutrition of its school meals in a way that surprised everyone and won the hearts and stomachs of its student community.

New federal rules impact school meal requirements