USDA to allow more meats, grains in school lunches

USDA to allow more meats, grains in school lunches

Posted Dec. 19, 2012

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has responded to criticism over new school lunch rules by allowing more grains and meat in kids’ meals.


USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack told members of Congress in a letter earlier this month that the department will do away with daily and weekly limits of meats and grains. Several lawmakers wrote the department after the new rules went into effect in September saying kids aren’t getting enough to eat.


“Since the new school year started and schools began to implement the new guidelines, we heard from parents concerned about children being hungry and maybe not getting enough to eat during the day,” said Adria Sheil-Brown, manager of nutrition communication and research for the National Pork Board. She noted that the Checkoff has educated producers and committees on the school meal modifications and the rationale behind them.


The Pork Checkoff is funding nutrition research to help demonstrate the importance of not only breakfast, but the inclusion of animal protein at breakfast with adolescents and the impact it can have on satiety, weight management/loss and cognitive function. 


“We can’t change federal guidelines, but we can proactively work with researchers to demonstrate the need for protein at meals,” Sheil-Brown said. “This in turn, could help impact how school meals are viewed in the future.”


In Vilsack’s letter, he wrote: “This flexibility is being provided to allow more time for the development of products that fit within the new standards while granting schools additional weekly menu planning options to help ensure that children receive a wholesome, nutritious meal every day of the week.”


The new guidelines, intended to address increasing childhood obesity, set limits on calories and salt, and phase in more whole grains. Though broader calorie limits are still in place, school lunch planners can now use as many grains and as much meat as they want.