The USDA will eliminate the weekly maximums for grains and proteins under the new meal pattern for the remainder of the 2012-13 school year though calorie maximums for school meals will remain in place. The limits had gone into effect this school year to comply with modifications to the national school meals program and were intended to address increasing childhood obesity levels. They set limits on calories and sodium and dictated how much of certain food groups could be served and had come under fire from students and parents (and their Congressmen) for being too restrictive.
“School nutrition professionals have faced significant menu planning, operating, financial challenges and more as a result of the new meal pattern requirements," comments School Nutrition Association President Sandra Ford. "USDA's new guidance acknowledges those challenges and gives school meal programs more flexibility. By easing weekly maximums for grains and proteins but maintaining calorie limits, USDA protects the nutritional integrity of the new standards while giving school meal programs more time to design healthy menus that meet both the new standards and students’ tastes.”
USDA has not announced whether the changes would continue to apply into the 2013-14 school year, but officials indicated they will continue to assess the requirements over the coming months.
“SNA has been in close communication with USDA this school year, sharing the challenges and successes of SNA members throughout meal pattern implementation, including concerns about the grain and protein weekly maximums,” says Ford. “SNA will continue to report back to USDA on how these new flexibilities ease the burden on school meal programs and will make additional recommendations as warranted.”
USDA also announced that new guidance on breakfast requirements will be released soon.
Go here for a PDF giving more details about the policy change from SNA.