by Marion Nestle
Jan 13 2011

USDA proposes new standards for school meals

The USDA announced today that it is starting the interminable rulemaking process for new nutrition standards for school breakfasts and lunches.

The new standards are designed to add more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat milk to school meals.

These are food-based standards.  The lengthy Federal Register notice specifies the number and size of servings of fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, and grains (table 3, page 2516).  This is a huge step forward and USDA deserves lots of support for doing this.

I am somewhat less enthusiastic about some of the other provisions, but perhaps they are the price to pay for progress:

Nutrient-based standards? The standards also are designed to limit levels of saturated fat, sodium, calories, and trans fats.  They specify a range of calories as well as maximum values for saturated fat and sodium (trans fats have to be zero).

Alas, the devil is in the details.

Nutrient-based standards force some questionable choices on menu planners.  This is evident from the menus comparing the old and new standards.  The old menus included “kids food”—food-like objects such as pizza sticks and breaded beef patties.

Happily, the new menus drop those and call for real foods.  Some of them—jicama, kiwi, and grape tomatoes, for example—are likely to seem exotic to kids accustomed to chicken fingers.  So far, so good.

But the foods are accompanied by strangely tasting miracles of food technology such as reduced-fat mayonnaise, low-fat salad dressings, and soft margarines.  Why?  To meet nutrient standards.

What about sugars? The standards don’t mention sugars except to say that if the others are followed, there isn’t much room allowed for sugary foods.  Canned fruits are to be low in sugar.  Use of highly fortified sugary foods is discouraged.

Chocolate and other flavored milk? The new standards allow skim “flavored” milk (translation: sugar-sweetened).  Otherwise, says USDA, kids might not drink milk and will not get enough calcium.  Sigh.  Milk, as I keep saying, is not an essential nutrient.  Chocolate or strawberry milk is a dessert.  Chalk this one up to dairy lobbying.

The USDA based the new standards on the report released in October 2009 by the Institute of Medicine (IOM): School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children. It looks to me as though the USDA actually followed the IOM recommendations, a miracle in itself.

If you want to comment on the new standards, you can do so until April 13 at  http://www.regulations.gov. Enjoy!

Comments

  • Angela H.
  • January 13, 2011
  • 4:54 pm

Well, I guess I will need to start packing my son’s lunches soon. Pizza is able to cover the food pyramid and be tasty if done correctly. But, then, again, maybe I won’t be packing his lunch as long as they have salad bar. I’m blessed with a 9 yr old that eats broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, beets, cucumbers and many other foods that cause eyebrows to raise in the cafeteria. But, then, he sees his family eating them. And fast food meals or Chuck E Cheese are considered treats not everyday meals. And, no, I’m not a nutritionist or dietitian.

  • Andrea
  • January 13, 2011
  • 5:40 pm

Thanks for calling it like it is! Progress is slow, and sometimes lopsided.

[...] USDA proposes new standards for school meals. [...]

[...] USDA proposes new standards for school meals - Food Politics [...]

  • Pete
  • January 13, 2011
  • 6:10 pm

This will only slow real reform. I already see loopholes can you imagine what a food marketer sees?

  • Cathy Richards
  • January 13, 2011
  • 7:22 pm

Still allowing flavoured milks but now they have to be skim. Dang. High sugar, high glycemic load — it would be better if high sugar milks also had to be 2% or whole…

I wish they had said flavoured milks can only be used if the added sugar is less than x g. Then maybe we could have influenced industry to come up with a flavoured milk that isn’t sickeningly sweet, just slightly sweet.

There’s little hope of industry doing that if the USDA doesn’t request it.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by bayareabites, Marion Nestle, Rouge Tomate, Jenni Fisher, Liz Munn and others. Liz Munn said: Who would have thought it? Food-based standards. RT @marionnestle: USDA proposes new standards for school meals: http://bit.ly/id2wzb [...]

[...] The USDA announced yesterday that it is exploring new nutritional standards for school lunches, which sounds kind of like they’re breaking up with the old nutritional standards but don’t know quite how to say it.   Marion Nestle breaks it down for us. [...]

[...] I’ll continue to delve into the regulations (embarrassingly, this is enjoyable bedtime reading for the kid-and-food blogger!) and will share thoughts and insights with you in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, you may also want to check out Marion Nestle’s take on the regulations here. [...]

Honestly, changes keep being made to school lunches year after year and yet, when I ate lunch at my daughter’s school a while back, I SWEAR it was the same food I had in the fourth grade, and I’m pretty sure it was the same rubber-gloved, hair-netted lunch lady who served it to me. The more things change… Personally, until my kids’ lunch room resembles the fresh produce section of my local grocery store, I won’t be entirely happy with what they’re being served.

[...] USDA proposes new standards for school meals (!) from Food Politics [...]

[...] lunches has just taken a 20% increase as of today, his first hot lunch day.  So the news that the USDA is planning to overhaul school meal safety standards is something I will pay attention to…Marion Nestle’s summary and analysis of what it’s all [...]

[...] whole-heartedly agree with Marion Nestle in her article about this. The federal reimbursement rate for school lunches is low. It stayed the same rate from [...]

[...] proposes new standards for school meals (Food Politics) AKPC_IDS += "11369,"; Share  E-mail [...]

[...] zero grams of trans fat per serving. More on the story, is Mrs. Q of Fed Up With School Lunch. Dr. Marion Nestle. [...]

  • Sandy McKelvey
  • January 26, 2011
  • 5:08 pm

Are there any restrictions or guidelines on high fructose corn syrup in the school lunch program. Our school buys chocolate milk from a distributor that buys chocolate milk made with high fructose corn syrup. Is that allowable? Can we fight that?

Thanks!

[...] USDA proposes new standards for school meals Food Politics, January 10, 2011                                                                                                                                                                The USDA announced today that it is starting the interminable rulemaking process for new nutrition standards for school breakfasts and lunches.  The new standards are designed to add more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat milk to school meals.  Read a second take on this story at USAToday. [...]

[...] Up until recently, most of them were crying that the new USDA guidelines, proposed in January, weren’t strict enough, allowing “flavored” milk (read: sweetened) as long as it’s non-fat or low-fat so [...]

[...] Up until recently, most of them were crying that the new USDA guidelines, proposed in January, weren’t strict enough, allowing “flavored” milk (read: sweetened) as long as it’s non-fat or low-fat so [...]

[...] wrote Marion Nestle, a nutrition professor at New York University and the author of Food Politics, on her blog at the time. It's a shame the agency didn't get [...]

[...] rules, you may recall from previous posts, are based on recommendations of the Institute of Medicine in a 2009 report on School [...]

[...] Marion Nestle, a nutrition professor at New York University and the author of Food Politics, on her blog at the time. It’s a shame the agency didn’t get [...]

[...] wrote Marion Nestle, a nutrition professor at New York University and the author of Food Politics, on her blog at the time. It’s a shame the agency didn’t get [...]

[...] for example, the comparison of an old and new weekly menu (this has not changed since USDA’s original proposal in January of last [...]

Most sites only allow players in the US to deposit via money order or Visa prepaid gift
card. As individuals that play poker online are often
beginners and are trying to learn the ins and outs of the game,
low stakes poker games online make this type of table game a great place in which to learn without losing large amounts of money.
These are certain very important questions confronting any individual.

Leave a comment