The school lunch program is off to a healthy start for 2012. The USDA recently announced new guidelines to help make school lunches healthier. While the national school lunch program has always aimed to provide healthy foods and appropriate portion sizes, the guidelines had not been updated in over 15 years. A lot has changed in 15 years including soaring obesity rates across all ages. The new guidelines will provide students with both fruits and vegetables every day, more whole grains, only fat free or low fat milk (no 2% or whole milk), age based portions rather than the same serving size for all grade levels and increased focus to lower the saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium in the foods served. The changes will begin in the 2012-2013 school year and will be phased in over the next 3 years. Schools will likely first target lunch for changes and then breakfast choices will be improved. The revamping of the school lunch program is part of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act which will eventually carry over into all areas of school nutrition including vending machines, concession stand sales, training for school personnel and better funding for school nutrition. These changes may be expensive initially (3.2 billion over 5 years), but the cost of prevention is money well spent.
Check out this sample menu to get an idea of what these changes really mean: