Iowa Public Television


More Fruit and Less Fat in School Lunches

posted on January 27, 2012

The sugar industry itself is not above campaigning.   Citing American Diabetes Association data, the Sugar Association says it is a myth that eating too much sugar causes diabetes.
And for decades, Big Sugar has waged a battle against man-made sweetening agents like high fructose corn syrup, which some critics believe is responsible for increased rates of obesity.
The problem of childhood obesity is not lost on the Obama Administration.  And the Agriculture Department released tougher nutrition standards this week for school lunches consumed by nearly 32 million young people.   

More Fruit and Less Fat in School Lunches

On Wednesday the Obama administration announced the first major nutritional overhaul of school meals in 15 years.  Because of rising concerns regarding obesity in children, the new regulations cap for the first time the maximum amount of calories contained in school lunches.

The new rules will also increase the amount of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in meals while reducing the levels of sodium and saturated fats.  Milk will be required to be low fat and flavored milks will have to be nonfat.

While the new requirements are not as aggressive as many had hoped, some conservatives argued the government should not tell schoolchildren what to eat.  Last year Congress blocked the Agriculture Department from limiting French fries and pizzas and a bill passed last November allow tomato paste on pizza to continue to count as a vegetable. 

Some changes to school lunches will begin as early as September with others being phased in over time.   The guidelines apply to lunches subsidized by the federal government and a child nutrition bill signed by Obama in 2010 will help school districts offset some of the additional costs incurred with the new program.  Six cents of additional funding is being offered per lunch, but USDA estimates the amount will not always cover the additional costs associated with healthier menus.  The difference is raising concerns in many school districts that already stretched budgets for education will be even further strained.    

Tags: agriculture diet health nutrition school lunches USDA