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Michelle Obama: School lunches to have more veggies, whole grains

Michelle Obama: School lunches to have more veggies, whole grains | Michelle Obama Shawnesha C | Scoop.it

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — The first major nutritional overhaul of school meals in more than 15 years means most offerings, including popular pizza, will come with less sodium and more whole grains, with a wider selection of fruits and vegetables on the side, first lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced during a visit Wednesday with elementary students.

Pizza won’t disappear from lunch lines, but will be made with healthier ingredients.

Mrs. Obama, also joined by celebrity chef Rachael Ray, said youngsters will learn better if they don’t have growling stomachs at school.

“We have a right to expect the food (our kids) get at school is the same kind of food we want to serve at our own kitchen tables,” she said.

After the announcement, the three went through the line with students and ate turkey tacos with brown rice, black bean and corn salad and fruit — all Ray’s recipes — with children in the Parklawn Elementary lunchroom.

The new rules aren’t as aggressive as the Obama administration had hoped. Congress last year blocked the Agriculture Department from making some of the desired changes, including limiting french fries and pizzas.

A bill passed in November would require the department to allow tomato paste on pizzas to be counted as a vegetable, as it is now. The initial draft of the department’s guidelines, released a year ago, would have prevented that. Congress also blocked the department from limiting servings of potatoes to two servings a week. The final rules have incorporated those directions from Congress.

Among those who had sought the changes were potato growers and food companies that produce frozen pizzas for schools. Conservatives in Congress called the guidelines an overreach and said the government shouldn’t tell children what to eat. School districts also objected to some of the requirements, saying they go too far and would cost too much.

The new guidelines apply to lunches subsidized by the federal government. A child nutrition bill signed by President Barack Obama in 2010 will help school districts pay for some of the increased costs. Some of the changes will take place as soon as this September; others will be phased in over time.

The guidelines will limit the total number of calories in an individual meal and require that milk be low in fat. Flavored milks will have to be nonfat.

While many schools are improving meals already, others still serve children meals high in fat, salt and calories. The guidelines are designed to combat childhood obesity and are based on 2009 recommendations by the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences.

Vilsack said food companies are reformulating many of the foods they sell to schools in anticipation of the changes.

“The food industry is already responding,” he said. “This is a movement that has started, it’s gaining momentum.”

The subsidized meals that would fall under the guidelines are served as free and low-cost meals to low-income children and long have been subject to government nutrition standards. The 2010 law will extend, for the first time, nutrition standards to other foods sold in schools that aren’t subsidized by the federal government. That includes “a la carte” foods on the lunch line and snacks in vending machines.

Those standards, while expected to be similar, will be written separately and have not yet been proposed by the department.


Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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New Rules for School Meals Aim at Reducing Obesity

New Rules for School Meals Aim at Reducing Obesity | Michelle Obama Shawnesha C | Scoop.it
New Rules for School Meals Aim at Reducing ObesitySaul Loeb/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Michelle Obama ate a turkey taco while having lunch with school children at Parklawn Elementary School in Alexandria, Va. on Wednesday

WASHINGTON — Hoping to combat the growing problem of childhood obesity, the Obama administration on Wednesday announced its long-awaited changes to government-subsidized school meals, a final round of rules that adds more fruits and green vegetables to breakfasts and lunches and reduces the amount of salt and fat 

The announcement came months after the food industry won a vote in Congress to block the administration from carrying out an earlier proposal that would have reduced starchy foods like potatoes and prohibited schools from counting a small amount of tomato paste on a slice of pizza as a vegetable. Under the latest rules, potatoes are not restricted, and tomato paste can qualify as a vegetable serving.

The rules were announced by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Michelle Obama at Parklawn Elementary School in Alexandria, Va.

“As parents, we try to prepare decent meals, limit how much junk food our kids eat and ensure that they have a reasonable balanced diet,” Mrs. Obama said in a statement. “And when we are putting in all that effort the last thing we want is for our hard work to be undone each day in the school cafeteria.”

About 32 million children participate in school meal programs each day. The new rules are a major component of Mrs. Obama’s campaign to reduce the number of overweight children through exercise and better nutrition.

The rules are the first changes in 15 years to the $11 billion school lunch program. They will double the amount of fruits and vegetables children are served in school and will require that all grains served are whole grains.

All milk served must be low fat, and for the first time the rules set limits on levels of salt and trans fats. They also set a minimum and maximum calorie intake per day based on student age.

The government estimates that the rules will add about $3.2 billion in costs to the program, about half the cost of the proposed rules that were blocked last year.

Nutrition experts praised the new standards.

“We applaud the U.S. Department of Agriculture for issuing final guidance to help schools across the country serve healthier meals to students,” said Jessica Donze Black, project director for the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project, a joint project of the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “The updated nutrition standards for school meals are now in line with the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”

Representatives of the food industry generally also approved.

“From our perspective, the new rules improve school nutrition, but at the same time give schools the flexibility to serve a variety of foods to meet the standards,” said Corey Henry, vice president for communications of the American Frozen Food Institute. “It’s a balanced approach that meets the goals of everyone involved.”

The National Potato Council, which had opposed the attempts to limit the serving of potatoes, said that it was pleased with the new rules but that it still had some concerns.

“Despite the fact that Congress said the U.S.D.A. could not limit potatoes in school lunches or breakfast, we still feel like the potato is being downplayed in favor of other vegetables in the new guidelines,” said Mark Szymanski, a spokesman for the council. “It seems the department still considers the potato a second-class vegetable.”

Earlier versions of the proposal met with political opposition because they would have cut the amount of potatoes served, a move not popular with lawmakers from potato-growing states. It would also have required schools to put more than a quarter-cup of tomato paste on a slice of pizza for it to count as a vegetable serving, an idea food service companies opposed as unappetizing. And the rules would have halved the amount of sodium in school meals gradually over 10 years.

A group of farm state senators, led by Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, blocked those earlier rules. Ms. Collins, who once worked on a potato farm, said the proposal to limit potatoes was overly restrictive.

The American Frozen Food Institute was concerned about the previous guidelines’ restrictions on sodium levels and the amount of tomato paste required to qualify as a vegetable serving.

The institute backed the latest rules, which continue to allow about a quarter-cup of tomato paste on a slice of pizza to count as a vegetable serving.

Still, Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit research group in Washington, said the rules would provide healthier meals and have a major impact in reducing childhood obesity rates.

“Despite Congress getting involved,” she said, “this is a very significant and comprehensive change that should improve the quality of school lunches.”

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USDA Unveils Historic Improvements to Meals Served in America’s Schools

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Michelle Obama Announces “Exciting” Changes to School Lunch Menus | The Lonely Conservative

Michelle Obama Announces “Exciting” Changes to School Lunch Menus | The Lonely Conservative | Michelle Obama Shawnesha C | Scoop.it

Michelle Obama Announces “Exciting” Changes to School Lunch Menus | The Lonely ConservativeFrom lonelyconservative.com - Today, 1:26 PMMichelle Obama Announces “Exciting” Changes to School Lunch MenusSeptember 11, 2012By Lonely Conservative

The lunch menus at my kids’ schools are a little different this year. As usual there is a main dish and some sides listed on the menu, but then there’s this at the top of the page: “For a complete meal, you must take at least three items. One item MUST be a fruit or vegetable.” So if the kids don’t like the fruit or vegetable offered on a given day, they have to buy it anyway and then throw it in the trash.

First Nanny Michelle Obama is very happy about these changes, so much so that she videotaped a back to school message for America’s children.

“And today I want to tell you about some exciting changes that you’ll be seeing in your school cafeterias,” she said.  “Starting this year, the talented people who cook the food at your school will be offering all kinds of healthy, delicious new choices.  Foods that are good for you and that taste good, too.”

“These healthy foods are good for your body, they’ll give you energy and make you stronger and they’re also good for your mind,” Mrs. Obama said.

“Studies show that when you eat healthy foods like fruits and vegetables that can actually help you pay attention in class and do a better job on your homework and tests.”

“And that’s really what this is all about,” she said.

Mrs. Obama also noted that both she and the president “believe” in the potential of our nation’s school children. (Read More)

They should believe in the children, seeing that they’ll be the ones paying for all of the debt President Obama is racking up.

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