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USDA Sets Healthier Standards for School Meals

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and First Lady Michelle Obama recently unveiled new standards for school meals that will provide healthier meals to the 32 million children who participate in the school meal program, the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity reports.

“These new standards represent a significant step forward for school meals," said Marlene Schwartz, deputy director of the Rudd Center, in New Haven, Conn. “The USDA did a remarkable job responding to the comments from nutrition advocates, food service professionals, and parents.”

Starting next fall, school meals will include a daily variety of fruits and vegetables and use more whole grains, in addition to continuing to have reductions in sodium, saturated fat and trans fat.

For the first time, schools will offer only fat-free and low-fat milk—a change that will significantly decrease the amount of saturated fat in school beverages. Another noteworthy change is that school meals will have calorie minimums and maximums based on children's ages.

"These federal standards set a much stronger floor for regulating school meals," said Kathryn Henderson, Rudd Center director of school and community initiatives. "Many states and individual districts have already built upon federal requirements and promoted even better nutrition in schools."

The new meal requirements are part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, signed last year by President Barack Obama.

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