School meal standards add more grains and proteins

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced recently that they will be lifting the previously imposed limits on how much protein and grains could be served to students in one week.

The latest modifications will be set in place for the rest of the 2012-2013 school year, explains Ann Schwader, SDSU Extension Nutrition Field Specialist. 

"These changes are positive and show that the USDA is willing to work with nutrition officials and others who have concerns related to the new standards," Schwader said.

The original changes to the school lunch standards were announced January 2012, due to the national Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act (Public Law 111-296) that determined how much of certain food groups could be served, set limits on calories and salt and phased in whole grains.

Schwader says the move to create stricter guidelines was motivated by the fact that the obesity rates among school children are growing and steps were needed to reverse the trend.

"These guidelines aligned school meals with the latest nutrition science, based on recommendations of nutrition experts and the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans nutrition recommendations," she said.

The new school meal patterns meet specific calorie ranges for children in grades K-5 (650 calories), 6-8 (700 calories), and 9-12 (850 calories). 

"The intention of the new school lunch guidelines is to ensure that almost all children receive at least one-third of their daily nutritional and energy needs," Schwader said.

The latest modifications are being provided to allow schools more weekly planning options to ensure that children receive a nutritious meal every day of the week. According to the revisions, the students can eat as many grains and proteins as they want, as long as they are eating the allotted amount of calories put forth by the USDA. 

SDSU Extension recommends that parents assist their children with the changes to the school lunch standards.

"Parents can make sure their youth eats a nutritious breakfast and encourage them to take and eat the fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat milk offered in school meals," she said.

Parents and organizations can contact SDSU Extension Nutrition Field Staff about the new school lunch standards and the modifications. For additional information contact your SDSU Extension Regional Center. Contact information can be found at

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