Now that children are heading back to school, efforts by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service to develop new school lunch standards are generating increased interest in changing meal requirements.
The new meal standards, which were approved in January, take effect at the start of this school year. Notable changes include offering both fruits and vegetables each day of the week, offering only fat-free or low-fat milk varieties, limiting calories based on child's age and reducing saturated fat, trans fats and sodium.
Protein servings are also affected by the new requirements. Now, 2 oz. of meat or meat alternate is required for high school students (grades 9-12) and 1 oz. for younger students. The final rule also specifies that flavored milk must be low-fat.
To address questions about the new nutrition plans, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Janey Thornton answered questions from Twitter users on Wednesday about the new requirements.
Questions and answers have been taken directly from Twitter and have not been edited. Answers from Deputy Under Secretary Thornton are tagged with "Thornton."
Q1 #AskUSDA RT @CAFoodPolicy: Students want appealing food. How can USDA help SFAs design a student driven menu? #SchoolFoodsRule
A1 Thornton: They should involve students when planning menues! It can be healthy and student friendly at the same time. #AskUSDA
A1 Thornton: Students can be involved in taste tests, both in the cafeteria and in the classroom. #AskUSDA
A1 Thornton: Parents may offer some of the healthier choices at home after viewing school menus on the district websites. #AskUSDA
Q2 RT @Blammo33: What has been the general response from schools about the new regulations? #AskUSDA
A2 Thornton: At 1st there was concern & anxiety, now that school is underway, we're hearing lots of excitement & positive feedback! #AskUSDA
Q3 RT @crystalcattle @ObesityCampaign What are ideas you have to reduce childhood obesity with non-food solutions? #ASKUSDA #SCHOOLFOODSRULE
A3 Thornton: We need to recognize importance of phys activity in addition to recognizing proper portion sizes of foods we consume. #AskUSDA
Q4 RT @radunn11: What do you think about all the food that is getting thrown away because kids refuse to eat it? #AskUSDA
A4 Thornton: In the responses we've had from schools thus far, they really have not seen an increase in foods being thrown away. #AskUSDA
Q5 @thefoodtrust Does "healthier" mean only more fruits, vegs & whole grains? What about protein & dairy? #ASKUSDA #schoofoodsrule
A5 Thornton: Healthier means eating a well balanced meal w/ proper portion sizes of all types of foods including protein & dairy. #ASkUSDA
Q6 RT @MrsZookeeper #AskUSDA 13 y/o has football after school. He's 5'9", 114 lbs. he NEEDS more than 2-3 oz of protein to keep him fueled
A6 Thornton: School meals designed to meet a portion of kids' needs. Parents may send add'l healthy snax to meet athlete needs. #AskUSDA
Q7 RT @GabiFretes @USDA Do you see a future in school healthy gardens for all schools in the country? Is it possible to achieve? #AskUSDA
A7 Thornton: I definitely see a future in school gardens. They help kids know where food comes from & to develop healthy habits. #AskUSDA
Q8 RT @katpinke: @USDA What about free & reduced lunch students who can't afford to buy additional food at school? #ASKUSDA #schoofoodsrule
A8 Thornton: There are a number of programs available in schools to help meet dietary needs of kids during the school day. #AskUSDA
Q9 RT @conniepgilbert @USDA what are school systems doing to get kids to try the new & improved meals? #askUSDA #schoolfoodsrule
A9 Thornton: Schools can use posters, flyers, taste tests, & school news channels to encourage students to try new healthy meals. #AskUSDA
Q10 RT @cassphillips11: Kids can't function properly without enough food. We're not getting enough. #askUSDA #mstmcomp
A10 Thornton: Kids need breakfast, lunch, healthy snax & dinner. School lunches provide approximately 1/3 of a child's daily needs. #AskUSDA
Q11 RT @wagfarms #AskUSDA Why is emphasis on reducing proteins instead of increasing physical activity? Remember the Pres. Fitness Chall?
A11 Thornton: School lunch proportions are based on scientific needs of kids. Physical fitness important too. #AskUSDA
Q12 RT @katpinke: @USDA Would you to come to my rural @WishekND school and help us create real solutions? Please. Set the example. #ASKUSDA
A12 Thornton: We do have a best practices sharing center! You can get ideas from schools around the country: ow.ly/dk5TD #AskUSDA
Q13 RT @SlowMoneyFarm #ASKUSDA just to clarify, your scientific data says portion sizes of all ages of school children is the same?
A13 Thornton: New requirements have 3 age groups with different portion sizes for each based on avg needs. Not a one-size-fits-all. #AskUSDA
Q14 RT @wagfarms: @USDA Is this a "diet" to try to improve numbers? What if it fails? When will it be adjusted? #AskUSDA #SchoolFoodsRule
Q14 Thornton: We know healthy food plays vital role in the education of kids. We con't to monitor implementation of school meals. #AskUSDA