USDA takes comments on school lunch ingredients

With possible implications for fruit and vegetable servings, the government is seeking public input on how certain foods are counted for nutrition standards in school lunches.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is inviting comments on what it called “food crediting,” the system that defines how each food item fits into a meal for the National School Lunch Program and other federal child nutrition programs. 

One of the questions that the USDA is seeking input on is, “What are the benefits and negative impacts of having different crediting values for different forms of vegetables and fruits?”

According to a news release, the comments will help USDA officials understand “diverse perspectives” on the food and nutrition environment.

“Serving meals to kids that are wholesome, nutritious, and tasty is a top USDA priority, and we can best accomplish that goal by listening to the voices of our many stakeholders,” Brandon Lipps, acting Deputy Under Secretary of USDA’s Food Nutrition and Consumer Services, said in the release. 

To receive federal reimbursement for food served through one of USDA’s child nutrition programs, schools must serve meals that meet specific meal pattern requirements.

The release said USDA is especially interested in understanding both the possible benefits and any negative impacts associated with possible changes to how certain foods may or may not credit.

Comments are due by Feb. 12, according to the USDA.

Mollie Van Lieu, senior director for nutrition policy at the United Fresh Produce Association, said the USDA indicates fruits and vegetables are one of its focus points.

“As of now, our ask would be to maintain the crediting as is, maintain the requirements to serve fruits and vegetables in the volume as it currently stands,” she said.

The USDA may consider changing how dehydrated vegetables or fruit fill the serving requirements, she said. Veggie chips also are mentioned in the document; currently veggie chips don’t count toward the vegetable credit, she said.

“To credit (a veggie chip) as a fruit or vegetable is probably getting away from the intent of the program,” she said.

In general, United Fresh believes the current USDA rules work well, Van Lieu said. 

“I don’t think there is anything we would look to change, but we are certainly going to weigh in on maintaining the crediting as it is and ensuring the wide variety of fruits and vegetables continues,” she said.




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Submitted by Brian Nolan on Mon, 12/18/2017 - 07:20

Too much whole grain. The products are very dry and the color of the wraps are unappealing. Students eat with their eyes. If everything is brown, it is not appealing. Also the rule to make students take a fruit or vegetable is causing more waste. Many students especially in the high school level, grab a fruit (fresh) and walk the 5 feet to the nearest garbage can and toss it out. A real shame. One other issue is that once they are out of high school there is no other avenue to continue this "education". Colleges and local restaurants do not follow any of these guidelines. They go right back to eating foods that are fried and not baked and almost no whole grain options.

Submitted by Lois Malmgren, RD, LDN on Thu, 12/21/2017 - 15:05

Please eliminate highly processed meats.

Submitted by Emily Thornton on Mon, 01/01/2018 - 18:46

The whole grain requirement for breakfast and lunch meal is causing a financial strain on my food service operation. Since the implementation that grain/bread products have to be at 51% whole grain my program participation has decreased almost 50% at my high school. I request that you consider going back to requiring that at least half of the grains served during the week be whole grains. My students are not accepting the whole grain pasta recipe and are barely tolerating the brown rice. Thank you for consideration of this matter.