News/Culture >> Browse Articles >> Food News


School Meal Changes Sought

School Meal Changes Sought

School lunches need improoving!

Nanci Hellmich | USA Today

A new report calls for dramatic changes in the meals served to schoolchildren, including offering students a greater variety of fruits and vegetables and limiting sodium and calories.

The changes could cost more, but the investment could help improve children’s eating habits and overall health, says Virginia Stallings, chairman of the panel that prepared the Institute of Medicine report. She’s a professor of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania. For many families and school food-service personnel, the recommendations may seem “like a common-sense approach,” Stallings says, but the current recommendations for planning school meals need to be updated with guidelines based on the latest science. The new recommendations are designed to bring school meals closer to current government guidelines. About 31 million schoolchildren (about 60%) get their lunch at school every day; about 10 million eat school breakfast. The recommendations say schools should:

*Increase the amount of vegetables to three-fourths of a cup a day at lunch for kindergarten through eighth grade and 1 cup a day for grades 9 through 12.

*Increase to at least half a cup of these every week: green leafy vegetables, orange vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, summer squash) and beans.

*Decrease the amount of starchy vegetables such as potatoes.

*Offer more fruit at breakfast.

*Serve children 1 cup of 1% or skim milk at lunch and breakfast every day. This helps keep the saturated (animal) fat content of meals below 10% of total calories.

*Make sure at least half or more of grains and breads are whole-grain.

*Reduce sodium in meals over the next 10 years. A high school lunch now has about 1,600 milligrams of sodium. Through incremental changes, that amount should be lowered to about 740 milligrams.

The report says the cost for breakfast might increase by about 18%, largely because of the increase in fruit intake. Lunch costs might go up by about 4%.

“There will be incremental cost increases, but it is an investment,” Stalling says. She says the recommendations will go to Congress to be used in creating legislation for child nutrition programs. The guidelines also could be used by the food industry to help create “healthy, kid-friendly products,” says Helen Jensen, who served on the committee and is a professor of economics at Iowa State University. © Copyright 2009 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc. <>

A service of YellowBrix, Inc.

© 2009, YellowBrix, Inc.