The National School Lunch Program has looked at and re-evaluated the nutritional standards of school lunches . These rules are to help with the nutritional diet of our children, by increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables they receive. The rules did not get rid of the pizza as a vegetable (as a result tomato paste); however it did set some great rules. The rules are below.
Today's rules mean that school lunches must:
• Offer a minimum of 8 to 10 ounces of whole grains. No more than two desserts a week may be used to meet this minimum
• Offer at least a half cup per week of dark green vegetables
• Offer at least 3/4 cup red/orange vegetables for grades K-8, and at least 1 1/4 cups in grades 9-12
• Offer at least a half cup of beans or peas
• Offer at least a half cup of starchy vegetables. There is no limit on starchy vegetables
• Offer at least a half cup of fruit in grades K-8 and at least 1 cup of fruit in grades 9-12
• Offer at least a half cup (grades K-8) or 3/4 cup (grades 9-12) of "other vegetables," which may be met with any of the above vegetables except for starchy vegetables
• Allow tofu as a meat alternative
• Get federal reimbursement only if they offer at least a half cup of a fruit or vegetable
• Contain no fewer than 550 calories for grades K-5, 600 calories for grades 6-8, and 750 calories for grades 9-12
• Contain no more than 650 calories for grades K-5, 700 calories for grades 6-8, and 850 calories for grades 9-12
• Obtain less than 10% of total calories from saturated fat
• Have zero trans fat
• Limit salt according to grade level
• Offer at least a cup of low-fat or skim milk
I see that there is still a lot of improvement that needs to be done. From this list a lunch could still consist of cheese pizza, canned fruit in syrup, with French fries and chocolate milk. Why are there no minimums for the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables? These recommendations still allow frozen or canned vegetables, such as peas, corn and carrots with little to no nutritional value.
What is the salt amount according to grade levels and how is that going to be watched, as most elementary schools feed the same meals from K through 5h grade.
In the article from Medscape, Rachel Ray goes on to announce a menu that she has come up with. The sample meal looks great, full of fresh food, but what will happen when the fresh food starts costing more and the Federal Government is only adding an extra six cents a meal?
Another thing that worries me is that kids have been accustomed to eating junkier foods and now we are making the new less salty and less sugary recommendations. How much of the fruits and veggies are going to end up in the trash. I know there is no way around this other than educating the students on the importance of theses nutritional foods. Where is that in the new recommendations? School is to be a place of education, of learning and growth, so let's teach the kids about real foods, about the importance of vitamins and minerals and how to cook and eat whole foods.
Let's teach these kids through examples everywhere. Let's set standards for what is allowed and not allowed in our foods. Let's set standards that protect us, the consumers, from genetically modified foods, genetically modified seeds, from chemicals in our water and our foods. This comes down to basic safety. We teach our kids to look both ways before crossing the street, why don't we teach them to look at what they are eating before just eating. Why is it that we don't teach them what is in there food. There should not be any chemicals, dyes, etc. in our food. Nothing but the whole food should be the goal going forward.
Let's get back to simplicity. An apple is an apple, it was produced on a tree, it was picked when it was ripe and it was then sold to a grocery store for us to buy. Let's get back to the local farmers markets, let's get back to real food.