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USDA Proposes Update to Nutrition Standards

USDA Proposes Update to Nutrition Standards

New rule would require more fruits and vegetables in school meals.

USDA has published in the Federal Register a proposed rule to update the nutrition standards for meals served through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs. The proposal would require schools to offer more fruits, vegetables and whole grains; offer only fat-free or low-fat fluid milk; reduce the sodium content of school meals substantially over time; control saturated fat and calorie levels; and minimize trans fat.

For school lunch, the proposed rules would change the minimum amount of meat/meat alternate to a 1.6 ounce to 2.4 ounce daily average over five days from the current 1.5 ounce to 3 ounce daily average over five days. According to the rule: The use of processed meats would be discouraged because those available at this time are usually high in sodium. If offered, processed meats would have to be low in fat. As a result schools would have to offer lean meats/meat alternates.

Based on the rule, Tofu is not considered an allowable meat alternate at this time. USDA is interested in receiving comments from the child nutrition community proposing a methodology that could be used for crediting commercially prepared tofu. The proposed changes are based on recommendations from the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine's report “School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children.”

The United Fresh Produce Association is cheering USDA's proposed rule that would significantly increase the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables served to the 32 million students served by the National School Lunch Program. The proposed rule seeks to align the National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines and Institute of Medicine’s recommendations, both of which call for increased consumption of fruits and vegetables.

United's vice president of nutrition and health, Dr. Lorelei DiSorgra, projects the proposed rule will double the amount of fruit served at breakfast, double the amount of fruits and vegetables served at lunch and increase variety. Dr. DiSorgra says children like fresh fruits and vegetables and will eat more when they are available in school meals. The rule will also improve their health and reduce their risk of childhood obesity.

All schools would be expected to implement the proposed rule beginning in school year 2012-2013.  United Fresh notes there are still many details to examine that will impact the produce industry. Therefore, United Fresh will form a working group to review the rule and provide comprehensive comments back to USDA within the 90-day comment period.

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