School lunch guidelines have been a continuous debate in K-12 schools across the US. The balance between student health, school budgets and what kids will eat has been difficult to achieve.
Many K-12 schools have found ways to entertain the new USDA school lunch guidelines through the revamping of recipes to introduce typically unwanted foods to students. However, there are still fears that the future of these school lunch guidelines will prove to be too much for schools to handle.
The School Nutrition Association is calling on Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ease up on July 1, when the next round of federal healthy food requirements are scheduled to be released. The goals have been rising steeply over the last two years.
The nutritionists are mainly worried about three regulations. These include:
The requirement of all grain servings to be more than 50 percent whole-grain — affecting such items as pastas, bread, rolls and pizza crusts. The current rule requires 50 percent of the grain servings to be rich in whole grains.
The requirement that children must pick up a fruit or vegetable with each meal, rather than just expecting servers to strongly encourage it. This leads to a major fear of food waster for K-12 schools.
The USDA also is phasing in steep reductions in the allowable amounts of sodium. The 2017 target is 935 milligrams total in an elementary school lunch and 1,080 milligrams in a high school lunch which could cause some student favorites, such as pizza and chicken nuggets to not survive.
It is not unrealistic for K-12 schools and nutritionists to expect some flexibility by the USDA. Guidelines have already been tweaked. For example, in 2012 the department scrapped maximums on proteins and grains after students complained they were still hungry after eating a school lunch.
The school lunch guidelines have already imposed a strain on K-12 schools breakfast and lunch programs. According to a recent article, since the new standards were first implemented in 2012, the number of children participating in lunch and breakfast programs has fallen by 1.2 million, from 31 million to less than 30 million.
For example, Missouri has seen a declining participation in school lunch and breakfast programs statewide, down 5 percent in the 2012-2013 school year.
The USDA’s demanding standards “have good intentions,” Karen Wooton, the State Coordinator of Food and Nutrition Services said. “But I think more time would help for getting better compliance. There are not enough products yet. More time would be good for the industry.”
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