Our children are our future. And the fact that this generation of children has been said to have a shorter life expectancy than our generation is something we should all pay attention to, and act on. Many health advocates like Jamie Oliver have been of great help in raising awareness, and teaching Americans how to cook and eat healthy.
We have a long way to go in this effort, but the USDA has just take a step in the right direction, by changing the school meals standards.
Thu 26 Jan 2012
Story by The Food Revolution Team
Under new nutritional standards released by the USDA Wednesday, America’s kids will have twice the amounts of fruits and vegetables on their school meal trays, along with more whole grains, less sodium and less fat.
The new standards were mandated by Congress in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, signed into law in late 2010. The basic principles of better school food standards were supported by over 25,000 Food Revolutionaries during 2011. These new rules will impact the 32 million children who eat free and reduced-price school lunches and breakfasts each day, and the millions of others whose school menus are dictated by the program.
The big food industry played pizza and potato politics late last year, successfully lobbying Congress to prevent the USDA from limiting the number of servings of French fries each week and allowing pizza to be classed as a ‘vegetable’. Yet even so, these regulations are the biggest advances to happen to school food in decades.
In addition to more fruit, veg, and grains, these new rules will also limit calories based on the age of children being served to ensure proper portion size, and require that only fat-free or low-fat milk varieties are available. They come with a 6 cent per meal increase in school food funding. The rules will be phased in over a three year period, starting in the school year 2012-2013 – meaning that by next fall, kids and families should see changes in the cafeteria.
While these regulations are a big step in the right direction, we still need to work together to help schools meet the new standards and to make sure they are implemented sooner rather than later. Plus, the USDA standards can still be met with processed foods, so the Food Revolution has work to do.
As Jamie says:
“Naturally I welcome any positive change to school food in the USA, and I applaud the USDA for making these substantial improvements. I do believe they could have – and should have – taken this opportunity to take even more radical steps to tackle the child obesity crisis but this is most definitely progress. As we saw in the two Food Revolution TV series on ABC, the problems in school food go very deep and so there needs to ideally be an overhaul of the whole system which looks at training, equipment and the supply chain as well as nutritional standards.”
If you haven’t already, check out the state of food in your local schools and see how these changes will impact the health of your kids. Start by eating lunch at school and doing a “school food audit.”
Join a local Food Revolution community group and work together with other members of your community – school officials, lunch staff and parents to build your local revolution and help your school reach these standards and beyond.
The Food Revolution Team
More information on the USDA new school meal standards:http://www.fns.usda.gov/cga/PressReleases/2012/0023.htm
Efforts like this are of big help, but the biggest impact is up to us at home. Educate yourself on how healthy eating is synonymous to healthy families and a Healthier America!