Efforts to promote a more healthful nutritional regime among American children continue as First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary Tom Vilsack of the U.S. Department of Agriculture presented last January a new set of standards for school lunch diets.
School chefs in their outstanding chefs clothing are now required to offer vegetables and fruits to students every day, as well as additional whole grains and low-fat or fat-free milk selections. Schools are also required to reduce the sodium, Trans fats and saturated fat contents of their meal programs, which are said to provide school lunches to an estimated 32 million students in private and public schools.
These standards, based on proposals and suggestions from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, is planned to take effect on July 1 and will be carried out in stages over three years. It is a part of the various efforts initiated by the administration to curb today’s childhood obesity, having learned that 17% of children in America are obese.
The new nutrition benchmark stipulates that school meals should have calorie maximums and minimums on every meal they offer based on the students’ ages. Kindergarten kids up until fifth-graders should ideally consume meals that contain 550 up to 650 calories, while 9th graders to 12th graders should have 450 up to 600 calories. The students, however, are not forced to eat the fruits and vegetables; it’s just mandatory that the schools present options of the different food groups to the children.
While the previous standards present a sample lunch menu of pizza sticks together with marinara sauce, raisins, banana and whole milk, the new rules offer a sample lunch of chef salad (with romaine lettuce, mozzarella and grilled chicken) with low fat ranch or Italian dressing, cooked corn, banana, raw baby carrots and skim chocolate milk.
Some of these revamps on school lunches did not sit well with the students; in fact it’s been reported last December that some of the kids trash their untouched meals and buy junk food in booming underground markets at school.
But authorities say that it’s really up to the school chefs, in their functional chefs clothing, to make their dishes enticing to the children. “If the food is not delicious, the children will definitely reject it,” said Sam Kass, an assistant chef from the White House.