May 21, 2024

USDA Is Updating School Lunch Rules to Allow More Grains, Meat

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack wrote a letter to members of Congress last week, telling them that the USDA is revising school lunch rules. The new rules are removing calorie limits on grains and meats offered to children. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) has been in effect since the beginning of this current school year.

School LunchIf a school meets the minimum serving requirements for grains and meats, they will be in compliance with the law, even if they exceed the maximum limits. Schools had been having difficulty working within the operational challenge of the minimum and maximum serving ranges. Vilsack wrote, “This flexibility is being provided to allow more time for the development of products that fit within the new standards while granting schools additional weekly menu planning options to help endure that children receive a wholesome, nutritious meal every day of the week.” The guidelines also set limits on sodium content and phased in more whole grains along with fruits and vegetables.

Some members of Congress had been complaining that the new lunches left some children hungry. One of the goals of HHFKA was to help address childhood obesity, which affects nearly one in three children. The Institute of Medicine created the basis for the original standards, which sized the school meals to “reflect the age and dietary needs of the students served and the appropriate balance between food groups.”

To increase caloric content of lunches, students can purchase as much additional food as they want. Schools can also make larger portions of fruits, vegetables, and milk available to the students.

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