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New Rules Call for Healthier School Lunches

USDA Unveils New Guidelines for School Meals, Including Less Salt and Fat, More Fruits and Vegetables

Schoolchildren Should Have Better Meals

The USDA’s statement says the new guidelines are an important component of first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative to solve the problem of childhood obesity in a generation.

The Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit watchdog organization, says in a statement that the USDA’s proposal would “bring school meal standards into the 21st century.”

Margo G. Wootan, nutrition policy director of the organization, says the new rule “represents an enormous improvement over the status quo” and that “capping calories, limiting French fries, and reducing salt will all help America’s school children avoid unnecessary weight gain and diet-related diseases.”

She says requiring school lunches to provide more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables “will teach kids healthy eating habits that may last a lifetime.”

A Third of Youths Are Overweight or Obese

The USDA says about 32% of children 6-19 are overweight or obese and the number of obese children in that age group has increased in the past few decades. These kids are at higher risk for chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Vilsack says the USDA is seeking comment on the proposed rules through April 13.

The published proposal, in part, calls for:

  • Establishing calorie maximums and minimums for the first time. These are different according to various age groups.
  • Increasing whole grains substantially.
  • Minimizing trans fats.

The new rule applies to breakfasts and lunches served in schools, but not to what’s sold in vending machines. That will be addressed at a later time.

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