Washington, D.C. – More whole grains, leafy greens, and fruits and vegetables will be on the menu for 31 million children who participate in the federally-supported National School Lunch Program under new nutrition standards announced today by First Lady Michelle Obama.
“The guidelines issued by the United States Department of Agriculture represent a major step in the right direction and a long overdue investment in the future health and productivity of our children,” said Dawn Undurraga, staff nutritionist with Environmental Working Group. “Parents can now imagine their children coming home from school with a newfound love for spinach, sweet potatoes and whole-wheat spaghetti. That’s a positive development that will have a lasting impact as they grow into strong, fit young adults. A healthier population will save billions of dollars in future health care costs.”
The National School Lunch Program provides free or subsidized lunch and breakfast in public and private schools. The administration’s move is aimed at reversing the childhood obesity epidemic that affects 12.5 million young people, 17 percent of Americans between the ages of 2 and 19.
The new guidelines will set maximum calories per meal for children in grades K through 12 and will significantly increase servings of fruits and vegetables. They will ensure that whole-grain foods, dark green and orange vegetables like broccoli, spinach, carrots and sweet potatoes become weekly staples in school meals. The guidelines set targets that aim to reduce sodium, saturated and trans fats in school children’s diets.
“School meals can help children develop lifelong healthy eating habits—or they can prime them for a life filled with unnecessary suffering,” Undurraga said. “It’s time we created healthier food environments for our kids, both at home and in the school cafeteria.”