Healthier Lunches at Schools Nationwide

New federal rules will require more fruits, vegetables, along with calorie limits.

As kids around the country head back to school this week they’ll see more than just new books and teachers in their classrooms. For the first time, they’ll be seeing healthier hot lunches.

Under rules that take affect this year in federally-subsidized public school lunch programs, the federal government is for the first time imposing calorie and sodium limits on school lunch offerings and requiring schools to offer students more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Even before this school year, already had been offering students healthier lunches. As they head into cafeteria's at lunchtime today, elementary school students get a choice of low-fat bosco sticks with marinara sauce or a tunafish sub, along with a summer garden salad with low-fat dressing, an assortment of fruit and milk. (See attached PDF for the elementary school lunch menu through the end of September.)

The new rules, established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, represent the first changes in public school lunch programs in 15 years. The calorie and sodium limits imposed under the new guidelines are based on a student’s age.


Check out Darien Patch's Back to School Guide


The changes are part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and are part of an overall effort to make federally subsidized school hot lunches healthier for kids and help reduce a growing obesity problem in the country.

The new requirements include:

  • Age-appropriate calorie limits and portion sizes;
  • Larger servings of vegetables and fruits (students must take at least one serving of produce with their school lunch)
  • A wider variety of vegetables, including dark green and red/orange vegetables and legumes
  • Fat-free or 1 percent milk (flavored milk must be fat-free)
  • Reduced sodium content

Officials with the School Nutrition Association of Connecticut said they applaud the federal school lunch changes, but added that some districts in Connecticut were already trying to make their lunches healthier before the new rules were passed.

“While these standards will be seen in schools nationwide for the first time this fall, many Connecticut school districts have already begun these efforts,” said Susan Maffe, President of SNACT. “We continue to proactively work to offer additional opportunities for healthier and nutritious lunches and are committed to ensuring a higher quality of nutritional standards than ever before as well as empowering students to make a healthier change.”

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