The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has published a new rule that permanently eliminates overly restrictive weekly limits on the grains and proteins served with school meals. Securing this reprieve was a primary focus of the School Nutrition Association's 2013 advocacy efforts following negative impacts of weekly limits on meal planning and student participation.
Updated nutrition standards for school meals, implemented in July 2012, included weekly grain and protein maximums that took a variety of healthy foods off the menu in school cafeterias. For example, many schools could not offer daily sandwich choices because serving two slices of whole-grain bread each day exceeded weekly grain limits and salads topped with grilled chicken and low fat cheese surpassed weekly protein limits.
The changes also prompted complaints from some students concerned that school meals were no longer adequate and led many families to start packing lunches for their children. Acknowledging these problems, USDA temporarily lifted the weekly limits through the 2013-14 school year.
"School Nutrition Association members are pleased that USDA has provided this permanent fix, acknowledging the need for greater flexibility in planning well balanced school meals,” sysd SNA President Leah Schmidt, SNS. “With school nutrition professionals already planning menus and inventory for the 2014-15 school year, eliminating the grain and protein limits is a key step to providing healthy menus that appeal to students.”