Agency Plans to Change School Lunch Standards

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has announced proposed amendments to the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program in an effort to update food standards consistent with the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
     The proposed amendments would implement provisions of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) of 2010, which establishes nutrition standards for foods sold in schools other than those already provided under the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 and the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act. All provisions of the HHFKA apply to “outside the school” meal programs, food sold on-campus or at any time during the school day. Exempt are one-time events, such as bake sales for fundraisers.
     “These changes are intended to improve the health and well-being of the nation’s children, increase consumption of healthful foods during the school day and create an environment that reinforces the development of healthy eating habits,” the Food and Nutrition Service said.
     In addition, the proposed rule would require schools participating in the NSLP to make free, potable water available to children in lunch rooms.
     Under the rule, food sold in schools would have to be either a fruit, a vegetable, dairy product, a protein food or combination food that contains at least a cup of fruit or vegetable; or contain 10 percent of the daily value of a nutrient cited as a public health concern in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, namely calcium, potassium, vitamin D, or fiber. Foods also must meet a range of calorie and nutrient requirements, specifically regarding the percentage of saturated and trans fats, sodium and sugar, and is limited in portion amounts and total calories.
     Requirements would apply to both food and beverages such as milk and juice.
     “The proposed rule requires schools to improve the nutritional quality of foods offered for sale to students outside of the federal school lunch and school breakfast programs,” the FNS said. “The new standards apply to foods sold la carte, in school stores, snack bars or vending machines.”
     The FNS added the rules would significantly alter the quality of foods available to children in school and that, “Excess body weight has long been demonstrated to have adverse health, social, psychological and economic consequences for affected adults, and recent research has also demonstrated that excess body weight has negative impact for obese and overweight children.”
     Finally, the FNS said there is a link between poor diet and health problems, such as childhood obesity, and is “a matter of particular policy concern because the relevant health problems produce significant social costs.”
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