Navigation Links
U.S. Pushes School Cafeterias Toward Healthier Offerings

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, May 13 (HealthDay News) -- School lunches have long served as the punch line of jokes, prompting chuckles about "mystery meat" and angry lunch ladies.

But no one's laughing these days, with childhood obesity reaching epidemic proportions in the United States. Instead, parents are looking to schools to help keep their kids fit and healthy through proper nutrition.

"Five days out of the week, many kids are getting two of their three daily meals at school," said Marjorie Nolan, a registered dietitian and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "School districts have an opportunity to teach children how to eat, as well as providing healthier food."

School nutritionists have for years made quiet progress in improving the healthiness of the food that's served to millions of kids for breakfast and lunch. But now they have the backing of the federal government, with the passage in December of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The law gives the U.S. Department of Agriculture the power to set standards for food available to kids at school, and offers extra money to schools that meet those standards.

Childhood obesity affects nearly one of every five American kids 6 to 19 years old, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate has risen dramatically, more than tripling over the past 30 years.

The USDA wasted no time flexing its new muscles, releasing in January a proposed set of rules that would drastically improve school meals by reducing fat and sodium while increasing whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables.

The federal law also will require the agency to create nutritional standards for so-called "competitive" foods -- the stuff kids can buy in vending machines or at school stores, outside the normal school lunch program.

"These steps are being taken very seriously by the USDA and the government," Nolan said. "It's going to be a challenge for the school districts to make these changes, but the USDA definitely seems to be doing things to try to make it manageable."

The USDA rules call for:

  • Establishing calorie maximums and minimums in school meals, set according to age ranges.
  • Reducing sodium in meals during the next decade.
  • Serving just one cup a week of starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, green peas and corn.
  • Increasing fruits and vegetables served to kids.
  • Using products that are free of trans fats.
  • Providing only unflavored 1 percent milk or skim milk that is either flavored or unflavored.
  • Dramatically increasing the amount of whole grains in school meals.

Many of these standards come in areas that have had little or no federal regulation in the past, said Leah Schmidt, director of food and nutrition for the Hickman Mills School District in Kansas City, Mo., and vice-president elect of the School Nutrition Association. But some schools had already jumped on the issue.

"It wasn't a real surprise to us," Schmidt said. "Many of the school districts participating in the national school lunch program already are working on the changes that are now official in the legislation."

For example, many schools already had weaned students off whole milk and now serve only 1 percent or skim milk. School nutritionists also have been working on adding more whole grains, fruits and vegetables to their menus, and reducing the amount of sodium in the foods they serve.

"We've already seen a lot of products that have been reformulated, bringing down the sodium content in them," Schmidt said. "This is not an unexpected thing for us."

The new federal law and the USDA rules do add one important thing: They bring order and unity to a healthy school meals movement that had been progressing in piecemeal fashion, said Marcia Smith, nutrition director for the Polk County Public School District in Florida and past president of the School Nutrition Association.

"For us, it's wonderful that we now have something in place where we are all doing the same thing," Smith said. "Now we can all move toward the same goal. It's difficult when everyone is working with different standards."

Food manufacturers will benefit because they often had to produce similar items in different ways to meet the nutritional standards of different school districts, Smith said. That in turn increased the cost to the schools.

Which isn't to say that meeting the USDA requirements will be cheap. Fresh and nutritious food is more expensive than processed foods, and it has a shorter shelf life, Smith said.

"It's definitely going to take additional money," Smith said. "When we serve fresh green beans versus canned green beans, the cost is nine cents more per serving. It's worth the additional money. We just have to find ways to absorb that additional cost."

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on childhood nutrition.

A companion article has more on school system efforts to improve lunchroom offerings.

SOURCES: Leah Schmidt, director, food and nutrition, Hickman Mills School District, Kansas City, Mo.; Marcia Smith, Ph.D., nutrition director, Polk County Public School District, Bartow, Fla.; Marjorie Nolan, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., spokeswoman, American Dietetic Association

Copyright©2010 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved  

Related medicine news :

1. SLU neurosurgeon pushes brain bypass to new heights
2. School Systems Struggle With Lunchroom Costs
3. Desire to Please Parents Motivates Kids at School
4. Elsevier launches Exam Consult -- an online exam preparation tool for UK medical school exams
5. Bullied Kids Showing Up in School Nurses Offices
6. Columbia Business School hosts American Healthcare Landscape in 2014 Leadership Forum
7. Columbia Business Schools Frank Lichtenberg awarded by the Emerald Literati Network
8. Columbia business school’s Frank Lichtenberg awarded by the Emerald Literati Network
9. U.S. Parents Want Kids More Active During School Day: Poll
10. U-M experts: Gym gone but not forgotten? Parents want more physical activity at school for kids
11. Early School Start Tied to More Teen Crashes: Study
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
U.S. Pushes School Cafeterias Toward Healthier Offerings
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... A recent article published ... unfamiliar with. The article goes on to state that individuals are now more comfortable ... less common operations such as calf and cheek reduction. The Los Angeles area medical ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... 24, 2016 , ... June 19, 2016 is World Sickle Cell Observance Day. ... the benefits of holistic treatments, Serenity Recovery Center of Marne, Michigan, has ... , Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is a disorder of the red blood cells, which ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... The Pulmonary Hypertension ... that it will receive two significant new grants to support its work to ... its 25th anniversary by recognizing patients, medical professionals and scientists for their work ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... , ... June 24, 2016 , ... ... offering micro-osteoperforation for accelerated orthodontic treatment. Dr. Cheng has extensive experience with all ... brackets , AcceleDent, and accelerated osteogenic orthodontics. , Micro-osteoperforation is a revolutionary ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... 24, 2016 , ... Topical BioMedics, Inc, makers of Topricin and MyPainAway Pain Relief Products, join ... wage raise to $12 an hour by 2020 and then adjusting it yearly to increase ... of the minimum wage, assure the wage floor does not erode again, and make future ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 Research ... Devices Global Market - Forecast to 2022" report to ... the treatment method for the patients with kidney failure, it ... excess fluid from the patient,s blood and thus the treatment ... potassium and chloride in balance. Increasing number ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... Ill. , June 23, 2016  In a startling report ... are failing their residents by lacking a comprehensive, proven plan to ... a definitive ranking of how states are tackling the worst ... to only four states – Kentucky , ... Vermont . Of the 28 failing states, three ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... Capricor Therapeutics, Inc. ... company focused on the discovery, development and commercialization ... in its ongoing randomized HOPE-Duchenne clinical trial (Halt ... its 24-patient target. Capricor expects the trial to ... 2016, and to report top line data from ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: