School Lunch Programs Get a Boost

New USDA nutrition standards for 2012-2013.

The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) new Nutrition Standards for School Meals help ensure that the nation’s schoolchildren have access to a nutritional lunch and breakfast. A few new developments are taking place in order to increase access to nutrition—besides adding more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to school menus, the USDA will allow schools to serve tofu options, along with other soy-based foods to children who regularly consume these foods at home.

Soy-based foods (including Sloppy Joes with soy crumbles, veggie burgers, chicken-less slices on sandwiches, soynuts in salads, and even soymilk) are lower in saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories than meat-based dishes. The implementation of soy in schools will begin in School Year 2012-2013.

In addition to soy, schools are required to serve either fat-free flavored milk, or low-fat or fat-free white milk with each meal. While the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends increasing intake of low-fat and fat-free milk, especially among children, the new school meal standards include a provision that all flavored milk offered in school be fat-free, ensuring nutrition and less sugar.