April 11, 2012 09:15 by Nina
Are you keeping up on the latest school meal requirements set forth by the USDA? School cafeterias now have to offer fruits and vegetables daily, according to new standards issued in an effort to reduce childhood obesity and provide students with a more balanced meal.
Sodium, saturated fat and trans fat also have to be reduced, in addition to more whole grain and low-fat milk offerings. The new standards come at a time when as many at 17% of American children are obese, according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.
Also new are standards that limit the number of calories per serving, segmented by age group. For example, students in grades K-5 must contain between 550 and 650 calories, with lesser amounts for older students.
The question now remains, will students eat the food? Although schools are now mandated to offer fruit and vegetables, they can’t force students to eat them. Early observations report students rejecting and trashing healthier meals for junk food snuck into schools.
While the new requirements are projected to cost nearly $3 billion over the next several years, nutritionists hope the creativity of school chefs nationwide will provide students with wholesome food that is also appealing to them.