School districts across the country will bring new meaning to the "apple a day" saying this school year as nationally-mandated school lunch standards take effect.
Beginning in September, the new lunch standards, introduced in January by First Lady Michelle Obama under the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, will be implemented. The standards were created to help fight childhood obesity throughout the nation.
According to a press release from the United States Department of Agriculture, the new meal standards are designed to "make the same kinds of practical changes that many parents are already encouraging at home." This involves the inclusion of fruits, vegetables, whole grain-rich foods, low-calorie foods and foods with reduced amounts of saturated and trans-fats and sodium in students' diets.
Specifically, 50 percent of grains served beginning July 1, 2012, must be whole grain-rich, with the percentage planned to increase to 100 percent within two years. A minimum of 1/2 cup of fruits and vegetables must be taken by students daily and over the next 10 years, total sodium should be reduced by 50 percent in school meals.
“Improving the quality of the school meals is a critical step in building a healthy future for our kids,” USDA Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “When it comes to our children, we must do everything possible to provide them the nutrition they need to be healthy, active and ready to face the future."
This school year will begin a three-year process where schools will have to eventually phase in healthier foods for breakfast meals as well.
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