New guidelines implemented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture will reduce sodium, increase the amount of whole grains, and provide a wider selection of fruits and vegetables for school lunches. The school lunch changes — seen as the biggest change in the standards in 15 years — were announced yesterday by First Lady Michelle Obama, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and celebrity chef Rachael Ray at an elementary school in Alexandria, Va.
The announcement comes as a compromise over plans from last year to go even further in changing school lunches. The draft of the previous plan wanted to cut the number of servings of potatoes to two times a week and not allow tomato paste on pizza to be classified as a vegetable, changes that were strenuously protested by potato growers and producers of frozen pizzas for schools.
Even without those changes, the new rules will radically change school lunches. For the first time, meals will have a calorie cap based on age. Most trans fats would be banned, sodium would be decreased in meals over a 10-year period, plain milk would be required to be low-fat and flavored milk would have to be fat-free.
The rule applies to lunches that are subsidized by the government, as well as “a la carte” items sold in school cafeterias and snack machines, thanks to a bill passed in 2010. That bill will also help pay for the increases in school lunch costs as a result of these changes. The overhaul will begin in September, with some of the changes gradually being rolled out after that.
For more information, check out this Associated Press article.
— Benjamin Nanamaker, InvestorPlace Money & Politics Editor
The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.
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