We have never been fans of the USDA school lunch program in our home. In fact, when Eben was in public school he never ate school lunch, we have always packed a healthy and delicious lunch for him. The very idea of pizza being the vegetable on a school lunch menu makes me cringe. And remember when a Chicago public school banned homemade lunches to encourage their idea of healthy eating? For the most part, school lunches contain too much fat, sodium, artificial flavors and colors that it rivals fast food. However, it looks as though things are about to change, the USDA is making the first changes to the school lunch menus in 15 years.
The new standards are meant to be consistent with the healthy food choices that many families are already trying to implement in their own homes including:
- Students are offered both fruits and vegetables every day of the week.
- Substantially increasing the offerings of whole grain foods.
- Students are offered only fat-free or low-fat milk.
- Ensuring proper portion size by limiting calories based on the age of the children being served.
- Increasing the focus on saturated fat, trans fats and sodium reduction.
- Foods and beverages sold in vending machines on school campuses will also contribute to a healthy diet.
These new school lunch rules were built around recommendations from a panel of experts convened by the Institute of Medicine – a gold standard for evidence-based health analysis. You can see a sample lunch program menu with the before and after comparsion here.
Sounds pretty great, right? However, their are challenges that the new rules face including:
- A $3.2 billion expense to school meal costs over the next 5 years – when school budgets are at an all-time low.
- Taking a three-year period to implement the key changes in the nutrition standards to schools.
- The ease of Congress allowing these key changes being implemented.
What your thoughts? If you pack a healthy school lunch for your child everyday – will you allow them to eat school lunch once the program is implemented in your school?
If your child eats school lunch, are you happy with the changes that are being made?