The USDA announced new guidelines for school lunches on January 13, 2021. These are the first changes to the guidelines in over 15 years and have been made in part to help stop the rapidly increasing rates of childhood obesity.
“The more we can reinforce the right set of choices and encourage the right set of choices, the greater the chances are that we will get a handle on obesity,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told Good Morning America. “This doesn’t mean that we are going to eliminate treats, not at all. But it is a circumstance, situation where treats have a special meaning, a special occasion, a special circumstance that we celebrate with a treat.”
The new guidelines set the first ever maximum cap on consumable calories in addition to the minimum already allowed. They set high standards: reduce saturated fat, sugar and sodium, increase whole grains and serve both fruits and vegetables daily. Children consume up to half of their calories at school, and these guidelines help to make sure that they are meeting their dietary needs.
Under the new guidelines, a lunch that previously consisted of a breaded beef patty on a roll, a fruit Popsicle and low-fat milk could become baked fish nuggets, a whole wheat roll, mashed potatoes, broccoli, peaches, and skim milk. Close to 1,000 schools have already adopted the new guidelines.