How new nutrition proposal could impact school meals

USDA says it's responding to request from schools while experts fear a drop in healthy ingredients
By: | January 27, 2020
School districts are trying to appeal to more students by adding the flavors of different cultures to their menus and bringing food trucks to campus.School districts are trying to appeal to more students by adding the flavors of different cultures to their menus and bringing food trucks to campus.

Schools could serve fewer vegetables and fruits required at lunch and breakfast while offering more pizza, burgers and fries under a new rule proposed by the U.S. Department of AgricultureThe Washington Post reported.

The USDA believes that the new rule would eliminate some burdensome regulations and reduce food waste but one expert told The Washington Post that the change would allow students to choose more foods that are high in calories, saturated fat and sodium.

The proposed rule would give schools leeway in what fruits and vegetable are served during meals, and would broaden snack food offerings, The New York Times reported.

The USDA, which has opened the rule up for public comment, said the proposal was driven by requests made over the past two years by school food services. “Schools and school districts continue to tell us that there is still too much food waste and that more common-sense flexibility is needed to provide students nutritious and appetizing meals,” Sonny Perdue, the agriculture secretary, said in a statement reported by The New York Times.


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But April, 2019, a USDA report found that the Obama-era Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act had resulted in a dramatic increase in the Healthy Eating Index, a measure of diet quality in school-provided breakfasts and lunches, The Washington Post reported.

Between the 2009-2010 and the 2014-2015 school year school years, the score for lunch rose from 57.9 to 81.5. The report also found greater participation in meal programs at schools with the highest healthy food standards, according to The Washington Post.

Last year, a controversy erupted over schools banning chocolate milk. While some districts in the West quietly stopped serving flavored milk, a ban caused more consternation in New York City, District Administration reported.

Six New York members of Congress wrote a letter to the district arguing that the flavored milk ban would negatively affect dairy farmers,  TODAY reported. The letter also cited dairy producer-funded studies that said children who drink flavored milk are more likely to receive their daily recommended vitamins.


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Elsewhere, districts are trying to appeal to more students by adding the flavors of different cultures to their menus and bringing in food trucks, DA reported in March, 2019.

South Carolina’s largest district, Greenville County Schools, bought a surplus bread truck for $11,000 and retrofitted it for $39,000. The truck offers free tests of dishes such as salmon curry, alligator gumbo and pork-belly tacos from the truck.

A food truck also visits different schools within the nation’s ninth-largest district, Orange County Public Schools in Florida. The mobile menus offer three dishes at a time, and students can vote for their favorite, which are marketed in the cafeterias as a “Food Truck Favorite.”

Students don’t associate the vehicles with school lunch, Kristan Hayden, marketing and special projects manager for the Orlando-area district, told DA. “It’s something new and fun and innovative to interact with, especially the motor coach,” Hayden said. “The kids are thrilled when it pulls up—it’s like another field day.”


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