The USDA has issued new regulations regarding the food our kids will get at school. The new rules take effect in July and school meals will have to offer fruits and vegetables to students every day. The meal programs, which feed about 32 million students in public and private schools, will have to reduce sodium, saturated fat and trans fats. Schools must also offer more whole grains as well as fat-free or low-fat milk varieties.
The new nutrition standards are largely based on recommendations by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, as part of efforts to curb childhood obesity. Recent numbers show that about 17% of children in the United States are obese. Michele Obama has been at the forefront of this issue. Her “Let’s Move” campaign has focused on getting kids off the couch and playing again. Now she speaks out on these new regulations:
“When we send our kids to school, we expect that they won’t be eating the kind of fatty, salty, sugary foods that we try to keep them from eating at home,” Obama said in a news release. “We want the food they get at school to be the same kind of food we would serve at our own kitchen tables.”
However, a serious problem is getting kids to eat the new healthier menu.
“If it’s not delicious, kids aren’t going to eat it,” said Sam Kass, assistant White House chef. “I have lots of confidence in school chefs across the country who are working very hard to try to put delicious foods on the plates of kids.”
My daughter, Kaitlin, is an elementary school music teacher in the central valley of California. One of her schools is testing a plan to get kids to eat fresh vegetables by giving them portion controlled packages of raw broccoli and cauliflower. Sadly a lot of it ends up in the trash. Kids that are not exposed to these items at home are not necessarily open to even trying them.
Jamie Oliver has been leading this charge for over a year. His position is that we all have to change our approach both at home and at school.
“We’re losing the war against obesity in the US. It’s sad, but true. Our kids are growing up overweight and malnourished from a diet of processed foods, and today’s children will be the first generation ever to live shorter lives than their parents. It’s time for change. It’s time for a Food Revolution. The problem stems from the loss of cooking skills at home and the availability of processed foods at every turn, from the school cafeteria to church function halls, factories and offices. This Food Revolution is about saving lives by inspiring everyone: moms, dads, kids, teens and cafeteria workers to get back to basics and start cooking good food from scratch.” Jamie Oliver
This weekend I will be attending the Farm to School Showcase at the Oregon School Nutrition Association Conference. The mission is to increase the variety and availability of healthy, regionally sourced foods served at school, helps to stabilize markets for regional food producers and helps give children a sense of where their food comes from.
Schools have a hard time offering fresh fruit at all times due to the extreme perishability so canned fruit can be a good alternative. Particularly Oregon Canned Fruit with minimal processing and just three ingredients: fruit, water and cane sugar. I came across a recipe from the US High bush Blueberry Council that I thought exemplified what they want to accomplish. It is low fat and high fiber owing to the use of mashed sweet potatoes, contains whole grains and fruit and is DELICIOUS! I don’t think kids will be throwing this breakfast treat in the trash. This recipe is nutritionally dense and a far cry from the enormous hunks of greasy, sugary coffee cake they served in my junior high for the morning break referred to as “NUTRITION”! Go figure.