School Nutrition Update

By Marshall L. Matz, as published in Agri-Pulse

School nutrition is front and center these days. At the USDA Outlook Conference, Secretary Vilsack proudly pointed out the many improvements USDA has made to school nutrition programs as well as other nutrition programs.

The National School Lunch Act (the Act), signed into law by President Truman in 1946, is widely seen as one of the most successful federal programs. The idea then – and now – is that all schools should have the ability to offer lunch and breakfast to students so that they can concentrate on school work, and not be distracted by hunger.

Today, lunch is served to over 31 million children in 100,000 schools. The US program is a model being replicated all over the world from Japan to Ghana.  The program is also big business.  By one estimate, over ten percent of all food away from home is now served in school.

New School Meal Standards...The nutritional standards for school lunch were significantly changed for the current school year, and more changes are coming for the breakfast program.  Some believe that this new rule was a result of the enactment of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. That is not the case.  In fact, these changes had been in process for many years, and are the first significant nutrition update in more than a decade.

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