USDA Issues Proposed New School Meal Rules

The US Dept. of Agriculture has released a proposed new rule for updating federal nutrition standards for meals served under the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. Implementing the new meal standards is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 that was signed into law by President Obama on Dec. 13. Rules governing offerings outside those programs, such as vending sales, will be addressed later in a separate rule.

Among the requirements for school meals outlined in the proposed rule are

• a reduction in starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn to one cup a week,

• a gradual reduction in sodium in meals over the next decade,

• the restriction of milk to only 1% for unflavored, and fat-free or 1% for flavored, and

• a requirement that each day one serving of fruit be offered at breakfast and lunch, and two servings of vegetables be offered at lunch.

The proposed rules also will require increases in the use of whole grains and the minimization of products containing trans fats, and for the first time establishes calorie maximums and minimums for lunches: 550-650 for grades K-5; 600-700 for 6-8; and 750-850 for 9-12.

UPDATE: In a conference call with reporters to announce the proposed new rules, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack indicated that he was targeting the fall of 2011 for the publication of final rules following the comment period on the USDA's proposals was completed.