So the pizza and potato to-do wasn't the final word on school lunches after all. This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced new guidelines for the school lunch and school breakfast programs. Some will take effect as soon as this fall, while others will be phased in over the next few years. Most significantly:
- Lunches will include both a fruit and a vegetable serving every day; while the plan to limit the amount of starchy vegetables served was scuttled, the rules do require schools to offer veggies from each of several subgroups (such as "dark green" and "red/orange") over the course of a week.
- Whole grains will be used for at least half of the grains served--for the first two years. After that, all grains must be whole.
- Plain milk will be fat-free or low-fat (1%); flavored milk will be fat-free only.
- Total calories per meal will fall within recommended, age-appropriate ranges.
- Over time, amounts of saturated fats, trans fats, and sodium will be reduced.
In unveiling the rules along with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, First Lady Michelle Obama said: "When we send our kids to school, we have a right to expect that they won't be eating the kind of fatty, salty, sugary foods that we're trying to keep from them when they're at home ... That's why so many schools across this country have been working so hard to improve the food that they serve to our kids in school."