Project updates, commentaries, events and news about health across the nation from the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps team.

Back to School: New Meal Standards on the Menu

Thursday, August 29, 2013
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As another school year gets under way, more and more schools are adhering to new, ongoing federal school meal standards aimed at improving the health of children across the country. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act calls for districts to institute meal reforms, such as adding minimum amounts of fruits and vegetables and adjusting food based on calories. The requirements of the act have been evolving since it was passed in 2010.

Already, six states are meeting nearly 100 percent of the new meal standards, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma and South Carolina). As of the summer, 79 percent of all participating school districts across the country had notified their states that they were meeting the new standards, the USDA adds.

So what can students expect to see? Starting this year , an emphasis is being placed on using whole grains in meals as well as instituting lower-fat milk. Next year, competitive foods such as snacks and vending machine offerings will be subject to new standards.

Does it work? There is evidence that nutrition standards for food sold in schools has the expected beneficial outcomes of improved school food environment, improved nutrition, decreased unhealthy food consumption, increased fruit and vegetable consumption, and more. You can read more at What Works For Health (part of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program).