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USDA Mandates Healthier School Lunch Meals

No more Sloppy Joes, Chili Cheese Fries or high-fat snacks in the cafeteria line at schools across the nation. No more greasy, low-grade hamburgers in children’s hands at their lunch tables. Definitely no more junk food, either.

Led by the initiative fueled by Michelle Obama, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has established new guidelines for school lunches. These guidelines are designed to curb growing childhood obesity and improve children’s overall health.

This program will feed about 32 million students in public and private schools, mandating that schools reduce sodium, saturated fat and trans fats – while offering more whole grains and fat-free or low-fat milk, according to CNN. All schools must now offer fruits and vegetables with every student meal.

These regulations were sparked by staggering reports that nearly 17 percent of children are considered obese. Immediately, educators and politicians knew they had to do something and school lunches were really the only meals they could feasibly control.

The effort is designed to do much more than just improve student lunches, as most hope that children adopt healthier eating habits that transcend schools. Regulators want children to start reaching for apples instead of potato chips, even when they’re home.

However, their efforts cannot control what kids eat at home or what kids bring to school, and for this to be successful parents need to get on board – and get on board fast.

Before these regulations, the typical school lunch was cheese pizza, canned pineapple, some greasy, fried tater tots and chocolate milk (non-low fat/reduced fat). Now, though: the typical school lunch would be whole-wheat cheese pizza, baked sweet potato fries, raw grape tomatoes, low-fat ranch dip, applesauce and low-fat milk.

These regulations have been praised an adopted by just about everyone, except for one group: students. In some schools, students have rejected and boycotted lunches. The Los Angeles Times reported that some students trashed the untouched healthier meals and started selling “underground” junk food at schools.

Other students have simply avoided the healthier meals by packing lunches full of junk food.

These rules place minimum and maximum calorie requirements per meal. For K-5, meals must contain 550-650 calories, and for 9th to 12th graders, meals must contain 450-600 calories.

Vending machine food and beverages must also be compliant as well.

These rules have gone into effect just this year and it’s far too early to determine if they are impacting childhood obesity rates. For this initiative to be truly successful, parents and students need to adopt healthier eating habits.

This guest post article was written and provided by Janice Mitchell who is a stay at home mother and has homeschooled her children with the help of for preparation on exams like the ISEE.

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