Fresh Nutrition Standards Serve Up Change in the Lunch Line
When they return to school this year, students may notice a
change on their lunch trays. New federal nutrition standards
have been implemented, which require schools to meet daily and
weekly serving requirements of grains, fruits and vegetables,
meat or meat alternatives and milk.
The new standards, introduced as one of five major components of
the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, make fruits and vegetables
the focus and main portion of each school meal. Schools must
offer three categories of vegetables weekly (leafy green,
orange/red, legumes and beans), limit starchy vegetables such as
corn and potatoes, serve only fat-free and low-fat milk
varieties and offer only whole-grain-rich breads, pasta and
New calorie limits are also in place, based on grade level.
Beginning this school year, school lunches cannot exceed 650
calories for students in grades K-5, 700 calories for grades
6-8, and 850 calories for high school students.
The changes are the first in 15 years to the $11 billion school
lunch program that serves about 32 million students around the
Why the change? In light of the rise of childhood obesity
nationwide, the role of school lunches is no longer to simply
feed undernourished children (which was the basis for starting
the federal school lunch program more than 60 years ago), but to
educate students about making healthy food choices.
All students purchasing lunch will be required to take a minimum
of three food components, one of which must be either a fruit or
a vegetable in order for their lunch to be reimbursable.
“RCS has long been committed to providing nutritious and
delicious meals for our students, and to helping to teach them the critical
role nutrition plays in fueling their minds and bodies,” said Porter. “There
will be challenges in
introducing these standards, but they have the potential to
serve as strong tools and guidance for realizing those goals.”
The changes slated to take effect in September are just the
first steps in a three-year plan to phase-in the new standards.
Changes to breakfast and snacks served in school will happen
over the next two years.
A 10-cent increase in the price of school lunch has been
approved by the Board of Education, to meet higher costs associated with new
meal standards and comply with another mandate of the federal Healthy Hunger
Free Kids Act, which requires school districts to charge a minimum price for
meals that is more in line with the federal and state reimbursement for free
and reduced-meals. The
cost of elementary lunch will increase to $2.10 at the elementary
school; middle and high school lunches will increase to $2.35.
Children from households that meet federal
income guidelines are eligible for free or
reduced-price meals. Reduced-priced meals cost each eligible
student $0.25 for breakfast and $0.25 for lunch.
If paying for school meals is a challenge for
your family, the district encourages you to review the free and
reduced-price meal information
here and fill out the