Paging Jamie Oliver

Even having precise limits for the amount of salt, starch and calories in school lunches seems a little silly to me philosophically (what if they just cooked real food and left it at that?), but this is a solid step forward just the same:

Among the requirements for school meals outlined in the proposed rule:

Decrease the amount of starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, corn and green peas, to one cup a week.

Reduce sodium in meals over the next 10 years. A high school lunch now has about 1,600 milligrams of sodium. Through incremental changes, that amount should be lowered over the next decade to 740 milligrams or less of sodium for grades through 9 through 12; 710 milligrams or less for grades 6 through 8; 640 milligrams or less for kindergarten through fifth grades.

Establish calorie maximums and minimums for the first time. For lunch: 550 to 650 calories for kindergarten through fifth grade; 600 to 700 for grades 6 through 8; 750 to 850 for grades 9 through 12.

Serve only unflavored 1% milk or fat-free flavored or unflavored milk. Currently, schools can serve milk of any fat content.

Increase the fruits and vegetables kids are offered. The new rule requires that a serving of fruit be offered daily at breakfast and lunch and that two servings of vegetables be offered daily at lunch.Over the course of a week, there must be a serving of each of the following: green leafy vegetables, orange vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, summer squash), beans, starchy and other vegetables. This is to make sure that children are exposed to a variety of vegetables.

Increase whole grains substantially. Currently, there is no requirement regarding whole grains, but the proposed rules require that half of grains served must be whole grains.

Minimize trans fat by using products where the nutrition label says zero grams of trans fat per serving.

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Author: Scott

I am a married father of two. I graduated from Rock Bridge High School and then Mizzou before spending six years in the Washington, D.C. area. We returned to Columbia, Missouri in 2006.

4 thoughts

  1. Ah! This is exactly the same conclusion I came to on a recent discussion about our local school food program establishing these guidelines.

    Assuming “calories” is the problem is simplistic and narrow focused. And it doesn’t teach kids anything about food and how to eat resonably and responsibly. All it does is create a point system.

    Rather, by eating made from scratch foods – we all fill up faster, get more vitamins per serving, will eat a wider variety of foods and educate palates. (Try eating chocolate after eating asparagus.)

  2. Could that be a mistake in the first proposed requirement about starchy vegetables? One cup a week doesn’t sound like much.

  3. Agreed that we need to start somewhere, but also agree that these mostly arbirtary numerical guidelines are silly. Part of what’s gotten us into this mess is the insistence of nutrionists and food scientists on reducing food and nutrition into the first commenter’s “points system” in which people eat and cook with calculators.

    The bureaucracy and/or cost it’s going to take for schools to calculate the nutritional stats of the their meals will eat up a great deal of time and funding that could otherwise be spent buying and preparing real, whole foods. Can we please stop panicking that children will suffer if their exact scientific ideal daily nutrional quotients aren’t exactly met every day?

    Interestingly, this same philosophical divide is part of what separates different models of agriculture. Speaking generally, conventional ag assumes that each plant (corn, soy, carrot) has a specific nutritional need through its lifetime and attempts to provide that each year through applied fertilization. If you give the plant (or the child) the exact numerical nutrients the scientists say it needs, it will grow, regardless of its surroundings. Organic ag tends to assume that all plants need a complex, healthy soil and work to build up that environment to be condusive to plant growth in general. You still pay attention to specific nutrient deficiencies in soil, but it’s effectively more of a whole-food model of agriculture in which you provide a long-term good growing medium and let natural ecology fill in the details (much like feeding whole foods and figuring the daily vegetable requirement will even itself out).

  4. I don’t think the one cup guideline is a mistake but it does seem low. That’s probably 2-3 orders of fries, mashed potatoes, etc.

    Maria and Eric, thanks for the thoughtful responses. I agree, Eric, that turning food into a science experiment conducted safely only in labs, by experts, is a big part of our problem. Didn’t think of the ag analogy, but it’s an apt one.

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