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School Lunch Program

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School lunch program guidelines changed for American children on July 1st. The USDA is phasing in more nutritious guidelines for your school. This three year process is already causing kids to talk about starving!

Additional fresh vegetables and fruits are required at school breakfasts and lunches. The number of obese children in the US had tripled since 1980. The USDA wants to turn this around by offering healthy foods with lower fats and sodium. Less meat helps to lower the fat consumption. Most kids get too much protein from meats now.

From January 2012 until the final ruling, the USDA received 133,268 comments and suggestions on the proposed guideline changes. They modified several key requirements relating to cost, timing, food waste and administrative burden. The new school lunch guidelines became effective on July 1, 2012.

A sample of the changes made to original proposal:

  • No meat/meat alternate required at breakfast
  • Additional year to implement sodium target
  • Students may take smaller portions of fruits and vegetables under Offer versus Serve

Is Your Child Starving?

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The calorie guidelins are:

  • Grades K-5: 550-650 lunch, 350-500 breakfast
  • Grades 6-8: 600-700 lunch, 400-550 breakfast
  • Grades 9-12: 750-850 lunch, 450-600 breakfast

The old average was 857 calories for high school. The government's dietary guidelines give a range of calorie recommendations for 14- to 18-year-olds from 1,800 calories a day (from all meals and snacks). This is an average. A big football player may need additional calories and probably something between lunch hour and after school practice. But, everyone doesn't need to eat like a footballer.

Many schools offer an unlimted amount of fruits and vegetables and smaller portions of meat and fat. The standards are designed to improve the health of about 32 million children who lunch at school every day and about 12 million who eat breakfast there as well. Kids consume about 30% to 50% of their daily calories while at school. For many children, school lunch might be the most nurtitious meal they get all day.

Parents Should be Involved

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Involving parents in their child's school is always beneficial for the student, the school, and the parents. I'm not sure about all schools, but where I live, parents can go to lunch with their child. My daughter has lunch with her grade schoolers on their birthday. My middle school, that might be a No-No from the student. Kids don't want their parents hanging around with them.

As your child's school puts out their menus, read it with your child and pick out their favorites. Discuss the healthy choices. Lead them to a healthier life.

Parents can offer to help the school with this project. Maybe hold taste tests of new recipes.

Of course learning starts at home. Make sure your family meals contain lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. But, don't forget the "treats". A scoop of ice cream with fresh stawberries is a great way to end a healthy dinner.

Sample Menu

Old Menu

  • Bacon & Cheese Burritto with mozarella cheese
  • Applesauce
  • Orange juice
  • 2% milk

New Menu

  • Sub-sandwich with turkey and low fat cheese -whole wheat roll
  • Refried beans
  • Green pepper
  • Cantaloupe
  • Skim milk
  • Reduced fat mayo

  • Before

    • Breaded beef patty with ketchup
    • Wheat roll
    • Frozen fruit juice bar
    • 2% milk


    • Oven baked fish nuggets
    • Mashed potatoes
    • Steamed broccoli
    • Canned peaches
    • Skim milk
    • Tarter sauce

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