Fresh produce remains in a good position as the U.S. Department of Agriculture tries to make school meals healthier.
The news in mid-December that the USDA eased its limits on grains and meats in school lunches should not be seen as bad news by produce interests.
It’s not even a fine line between healthy and realistic. The space for common ground is huge among parents, students, legislators, nutritionists, school leaders and the food industry, who all want kids to eat healthier food.
When a turkey sandwich is deemed not to comply, we have an unworkable situation.
Thus far, the meal changes have gotten negative reactions from whining kids, a popular YouTube video mocking the changes and from two Congressmen who proposed to repeal the nutrition regulations.
It’s inevitable push-back.
The United Fresh Produce Association’s Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools program shows that getting kids to eat more produce can work with some creativity.
Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health for United Fresh, told a gathering in mid-December in California that boosting produce consumption is a team effort.
But private industry can’t be expected to provide salad bars to the 100,000 schools who are implementing the new USDA nutrition standards.
While USDA has not said if these new flexible standards for grain and protein will continue into the 2013-14 school year, it should study what works and what doesn’t work as menus get healthier.
This should be a rare political effort where reasonable compromise can get something for all involved.
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