Florida and other states are phasing in new standards for school lunches. Fat and calories are being reduced as more fruits and vegetables are offered.
The National School Lunch Program requirements stem from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which focuses on improving child nutrition.
Starting this school year (2012‐2013), school lunches have new requirements:
- Age‐appropriate calorie limits
- Larger servings of vegetables and fruits
- A wider variety of vegetables, including dark green and red-orange vegetables and legumes
- Fat‐free or 1% milk (flavored milk must be fat‐free)
- More whole grains
- Less sodium
Food service workers spend a lot of time planning and calculating proper servings.
They’ve been through a lot of training, according to outreach manager Jackie Moalli with the state agriculture department.
“They worked over the summer to make sure that they understood what the requirements would be and how to accommodate them,” Moalli said. “Getting that right mix of the right types of vegetables as well as the portion sizes really was a learning process.”
Calorie guidelines for school lunches include less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat:
- Elementary- 550 to 650
- Middle- 600 to 700
- High- 750 to 850
Grains and breads for elementary students are limited to nine 1-ounce servings a week. That means sandwiches can’t be on the menu each day because that would equal ten servings in a week.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam recently told the Economic Club of Florida there is a correlation between bad eating habits that start early and the cost of health problems decades later.
“If we’re content to serve tater tots and ketchup and call it a starch and a vegetable, we will pay the economic consequences of doing that,” Putnam said. “That’s an inefficient market in a state that produces 300 different things, all of which your mother would be proud for you to eat.”
Putnam said an array of produce is readily available fresh during most school months — like leafy greens and blueberries.
So the state now has a program that matches local farms with nearby schools to supply cafeterias with fresh produce.