from Environmental Working Group (EWG) news releases, January 26, 2012          The 31 million children who participate in the National School Lunch Program will enjoy more whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables on their menus.  The new standards are based on the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations and are the first upgrade to the nutritional standards for school meals since 1995, when dieting on low-fat cookies was the rage.

The school meal standards are an investment in the future health and productivity of children and will save billions of dollars in future health care costs.  The Produce for Better Health Foundation reports that the costs of four diet-related illnesses—diabetes, cancer, coronary heart disease and stroke—total $38,000,000,000 annually.  Those who eat diets rich in fruits and vegetables are less likely to suffer diet-related illnesses.

The new program sets targets for reducing the sodium, saturated and trans fats in school children’s lunches.

Despite the National Potato Council’s having convinced Congress to allow fried potatoes to constitute up to 40% of the vegetables served during a week, despite The National Frozen Pizza Institute’s insisting that tomato paste counts as a vegetable—the framers of the new guidelines aren’t buying it.

Current lunchroom protocol has helped create a generation of picky eaters with dull palates—less than 1% of adolescents eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables.  A 2010 study by the National Cancer Institute found that nearly 40% of the calories American children eat come from empty calories—cookies, sodas and pizza.

School lunchrooms have misguidedly relied on fast foods and fast, low-labor cost production.  Industry has annually bombarded children with $1,600.000.000 worth of advertising.  And parents have shown a lack of faith in their children’s dietary curiosity.

The new standards will give children an opportunity to educate their palates and vary their dietary choices.  The mandated minimum servings of fruits and vegetables are doubled.  They’ll be exposed to more whole grains, dark leafy greens and legumes.  Broccoli, spinach, carrots and sweet potatoes will be staples on the menu.

My Take on the new guidelines:  We can expect beverage and processed food manufacturers to increase their drumbeat to keep lots of sugar, fat and salt in the schools and in our children’s bodies.

Let’s fight to keep our children marching to a different beat, to a new drummer.

BTW—Michelle loves the new standards.


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