Monday, December 10, 2012

USDA eases school lunch rules, allowing more grain and meat; nutrition advocates say it's OK by them

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will allow more grain and meat in school lunches in response to criticism about new lunch rules that took effect in September. Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a letter to Congress that the USDA will end daily and weekly limits on grains and meat, The Associated Press reports. Several legislators and school administrators complained about the new rules, saying students weren't getting enough to eat. The new guidelines were set to address childhood obesity. They limited salt and calories, and required servings of vegetables or fruits at every meal. (AP photo: Salads at elementary school)

"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," Vilsack wrote. The tweak will allow school lunch planners to use as much grain and meat as they want. Many had said grains shouldn't be limited because they are a part of so many meals.

Nutritionists who fought for the new rules support the changes. Center for Science in the Public Interest lobbyist Margo Wootan said the changes are minor and prove that the USDA is willing to work with school nutrition officials to mitigate concerns. "It takes time to work out the kinks," Wootan told the AP. "This should show Congress that they don't need to interfere legislatively." Last year, Congress blocked limits on potatoes and French fries, and allowed schools to count tomato paste as a vegetable. (Read more)

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