In January, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed updated nutrition standards for meals served in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs. LiveWell Colorado supports the proposed changes, include requiring more fat-free and low-fat milk and adding more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to school meals. Other requirements include limiting the levels of saturated fat, sodium, calories and trans fats in meals.
These new regulations will have a significant impact in Colorado, where nearly 400,000 students participate in school meal programs, a number that has steadily grown since 2005. In addition, more than 80 percent of those Colorado children who participate in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs receive their meals for free or at a reduced price. For these children, school meals are often their only sources of balanced nutrition.
LiveWell Colorado recently collaborated with a variety of partner organizations to express support for the new guidelines. Specifically, we were pleased to see:
- An increase in the amount of fruits and vegetables served during school meals.
- The establishment of maximum calorie levels for school breakfasts and lunches.
- The inclusion of nutrient-rich foods like dark green and orange vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
- The limitation on sodium, phased in over a 10-year period.
In addition, we offered the following questions and comments:
How will the new standards in schools be practically implemented given that schools are not required to conduct nutrient analysis of their menus?
- While the 6-cent increase in the reimbursement rate for school lunches is appreciated, even with this modest increase, it will be difficult for many school districts to pay for implementation of the new standards. Plus, there is no increase in the reimbursement rate for school breakfasts, even though additional servings of fresh fruits, vegetables and protein are required at breakfast. Given Food Service Directors’ concerns about the costs of implementing the new standards, it will be important for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Colorado Department of Education to distribute examples from the field about cost-effective compliance approaches.
- Ensuring the success of the new standards will require a concerted effort to support students in changing their taste preferences and habits. We are eager to support this effort.
LiveWell Colorado applauds the USDA for its renewed commitment to our children’s health and its thoughtful leadership on child nutrition programs. We look forward to working with the USDA, the Colorado Department of Education and our partners across the state on successful implementation of the new standards.
LiveWell Colorado is proud to have partnered with the following organizations in expressing our support for the new USDA guidelines:
- Center for Systems Integration
- Colorado Children’s Campaign
- Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
- The Colorado Health Foundation
- Colorado Public Health Association
- Denver Environmental Health
- Denver Urban Gardens
- Hunger Free Colorado
- Jefferson County Public Health
- Kaiser Permanente Colorado
- Metro Mayors Caucus