USDA Sets New Menu Guidelines for Schools Across the Nation

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - 11:03am

Your kids' lunch menu may soon be changing slightly.

The US Department of Agriculture has released new standards for the improvement in child nutrition programs at schools across the country.

Reducing childhood obesity is the goal, while nourishing growing bodies.

New nutritional guidelines set by the USDA will reflect healthier school lunch menus across the nation.

Target areas will include reducing saturated fat, trans fats and sodium from breakfast and lunch options while also setting appropriate calorie limits for the age of the students.

One of the new guidelines will require adding leafy greens to the menu which are high in Iron and adding red and orange fruits and vegetables that are high in Vitamin A

Another area of improvement will require fatty, high sugar milk products be pulled from the shelves, something BISD has already done. They only offer their students one percent and skim milk.

The Food Nutrition Services Director for BISD says the district is ahead of the game and doesn't have too far to go to meet the new requirements.

We also have stricter guidelines here in Texas, for example the Texas Public School Nutrition policy, so that's been in effect for a few years, so that has also helped us prepare for this," says the BISD Food Nutrition Service Director, Terry Mendez

With nearly 43-thousand mouths to feed here in Brownsville, making a change to include more food, like fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains could be costly, considering these products are usually more expensive.

So will these new changes affect the budget? That answer is...Yes!

However, the USDA knew that a change of this magnitude could be difficult for some school districts so they've set out to help kick start the necessary changes.

"Right now the state agency is figuring out how they're going to pre-qualify the districts because those who are meeting the criteria by July 1st will get that extra six-cents of reimbursement," says Mendez.

The six cents will help cover additional food costs or a district can opt out and start following the program guidelines next school year.

Of the 43-thousand students fed daily, about 90% eat lunch while 80% eat breakfast.

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