On Jan. 25, first lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack introduced the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new school nutrition standards. The regulations, effective July 1, increase requirements for fruits and vegetables served in school lunches from one-half to three-fourths of a cup (combined) per day to the new requirement of three-fourths to one cup of vegetables plus one-half to one cup of fruit per day.
Below are comments from other media on the USDA’s guidelines.
The New York Times — by Mark Bittman, Jan. 31
Thirty-two million kids — 10% of the American population, and the future of the country — are about to start eating better. That’s the bottom line of the new Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines for government-subsidized school meals, announced last week.
Of course, there are limitations: advocates for good food are correctly disappointed that the USDA ultimately let corporate interests deter the agency from pursuing an even more aggressively healthy set of rules. Following recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine, the USDA originally proposed limiting the amount of starchy vegetables in school meals — which up until now have been unlimited — to one cup per week.
Lobbyists for the potato industry made a fuss and the Senate stepped in to make sure that didn’t happen, and that concession is integrated into the new rules: Potatoes will still be unlimited. Similarly, you might remember that Congress and industry worked together to make sure that the tomato paste on pizza would continue to qualify it as a vegetable.
The New York Post — by Michael Walsh, Jan. 25
There’s nothing about rutabagas in the Constitution, but that isn’t stopping the Department of Agriculture from trying to shove them down your kids’ throats. Under new school-lunch standards unveiled by first lady Michelle Obama yesterday, public schools are now required to offer fruits and vegetables daily, along with more whole-grain foods, low-fat milk and lower sodium.
Oh yes, and there will be calorie counting, too.
“We want the food they get in school to be the same kind of food we would serve at our own kitchen tables,” said Mrs. Obama, who’s made childhood obesity one of her pet causes.
“When we send our kids to school,” said the first lady, “we expect that they won’t be eating the kind of fatty, salty, sugary foods that we try to keep them from eating at home.”
But do we try? ...
Depending on government to serve up tasty, good-for-you vittles that kids will actually eat at anything other than gunpoint is like expecting valet parking and a free car wash at your local DMV.
The proper place to learn about nutrition is in the home. Pretend however you like, neither schools nor the government can magically make up the difference if parents fail to do their job.
The Atlantic — by Marion Nestle, Jan. 26
Michelle Obama and Tom Vilsack announced new nutrition standards for school meals yesterday, to what seems to be near-universal applause (the potato growers are still miffed, according to The New York Times).
The new standards are best understood in comparison to current standards. They call for:
- More fruits and vegetables.
- A greater range of vegetables.
- A requirement for whole grains.
- All milk to be 1% or less.
- Only nonfat milk to be permitted to be flavored.
This may not sound like much. But given what it has taken USDA to get to this point, the new standards must be seen as a major step forward.