The big news in lunch this week was the USDA released its new standards for school meals. Pizza will still be considered a vegetable and the french fry lobby maintained its hold on the list of acceptable foods (and still isn’t happy that “the potato is being downplayed,” reports the New York Times), but according to observers like the Center for Science in the Public Interest, these new standards are the best ever, representing “one of the most important advancements in nutrition in decades.”
The USA will now join countries around the world that offer healthy guidelines for school meals.
Salt will be limited, no trans fats allowed, kids will be offered a wider variety of fruits and veg, milk will be low fat and whole grains are prioritized. School lunch providers will get an additional six cents per school lunch in order to achieve these new standards. (USA Today offers a few more details here.)
It’s about time.
But the fight for healthy school lunches is not over. The new standards will be phased in over time, there will no doubt be food companies looking for ways to cut costs, and the amount provided per meal may simply not be enough in the first place. Vigilance is necessary.
Check out Bettina Elias Siegel‘s always excellent analysis at The Lunch Tray for more on the Good, Bad and Ugly of the new standards. I also thought Mrs. Q., of Fed Up with School Lunch fame, did a nice job expressing how parents can help improve school lunch in her babble.com column.
Incidentally, Mrs. Q. posted an interesting piece about lunch ladies. Seems the staff of Chicago school cafeterias were actually asked what they think about school lunch. More evidence of their makeover, methinks.