Egg Nutrition Center Blog

New School Meals Regulations:The Changes Ahead!

Hi Readers! Today we have part two of Donna S. Martin’s, EdS, RD, LD, SNS blog post. Enjoy!


USDA built the new rule around recommendations from a panel of experts convened by the Institute of Medicine —a gold standard for evidence-based health analysis. The standards were also updated with key changes from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans – the Federal government’s benchmark for nutrition – and aimed to foster the kind of healthy changes at school that many parents are already trying to encourage at home, such as making sure that kids are offered both fruits and vegetables each day, more whole grains, and portion sizes and calorie counts designed to maintain a healthy weight.

The new standards are expected to cost $3.2 billion over the next five years — less than half of the estimated cost of the proposed rule and are just one of five major components of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, now implemented or under development that will work together to reform school nutrition. In addition to the updated meal standards, unprecedented improvements to come include:

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, says Rose, has issued the following new meal pattern that will become effective in the next school year:

Minimum/maximum calorie levels — Previously, only minimum calorie levels had been provided. The proposed minimum calorie levels are lower than current minimum standards. Some maximum calorie levels are lower than existing minimum calorie standards.

The breakfast meal pattern will consist of one cup of fruit, while no more than half of fruit offerings may be 100 percent juice; One to two ounces of meat/meat alternate; 1-2 servings of grains; and milk.
The daily lunch serving of vegetables must consist of 3/4 cup of vegetables for students in K-8; one cup of vegetables for students in 9-12; larger amounts of non-starchy vegetables may be offered; and one cup of leafy vegetables = 1/2 cup of vegetables. Over the course of a week, students must be served one cup maximum of starchy vegetables, such as white potatoes, corn and green beans; 1/2 cup of dark green vegetables, such as broccoli, collard greens and spinach; 1/2 cup of orange vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes and winter squash; 1/2 cup of legumes, such as kidney beans, lentils and chickpeas; and 1-1/4 to 2-1/2 cups of other vegetables, such as tomatoes, onions and green beans.

The daily lunch serving of fruit must consist of 1/2 cup for students in K-8; one cup for students in 9-12; no more than half of fruit offerings may be 100 percent juice; and 1/4 cup of dried fruit = 1/2 cup of fruit.
Additionally, 50 percent of all grains served must be whole grain by the first year, and by the second year all grains served must be whole grain; zero trans fat per serving; reduce sodium by 50 percent over 10 years; schools must use food-based menu planning approach and all components in meal patterns must be offered daily; K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 age/grade groups must be used; and students will be required to take a vegetable or fruit with their meal. They will be able to decline two food items at lunch and one food item at breakfast.
Fruits and vegetables will be two separate components at lunch effective 2012. Up to one half of the fruit component can be fruit juice (i.e., 1/2 of the 1 cup).

A sample lunch menu with a before and after comparison is available to view and download in PDF and JPG formats.

In California, more than 500 schools are already heading down the healthy track and have or are in the process of implementing many of the guidelines outlined the U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture, according to the California Department of Education.

“We are still battling a childhood obesity epidemic and really the future health and well-being of children is going to be jeopardized in this epidemic,” Shayegh said. “This is definitely the right step in ensuring that kids have access to more healthy foods at school. We all welcome it. It’s been long overdue.”

Author: Anna Shlachter MS, RDN, LDN