USDA guidelines aim to lower fat content in children's school lunches.
SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -
Students are seeing more fruit and vegetables and less fat on their lunch plates under new U.S. Dept. of Agriculture standards aimed at improving child nutrition and reducing childhood obesity.
"This year the new meal pattern goes into place," said school nutrition director Lydia J. Martin. "The new meal pattern requires that at least half of the grains served to kids on their school lunch tray are whole grain or whole grain rich. The serving sizes for fruits and vegetables are larger."
The changes mark the first overhaul of the school lunch program in more than 15 years and affects the nearly 32 million children who eat at school. The new regulations will be phased in over the next three years, starting this fall.
"The calorie ranges have been updated to make sure elementary school students aren't getting too many calories and that high school students are getting enough calories for their growth and development and not exceeding it," Martin said.
The new requirements are part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act signed into law last year by President Barack Obama and championed by the First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her Let's Move! campaign.
"The statistics are alarming within the state of Georgia somewhere around 40 percent of children are considered overweight or obese," said South University Beckie Hayes. "In the Savannah area, it's a little lower than that still alarming."
Parents will play an important role in supporting the new standards.
"How parent can help is encourage kids to try these dark fruits and vegetables," Martin said.
By choosing to eat the new, healthier foods kids will benefit in and out of the classroom.
"Fitter kids do better on tests and making better grades," Martin said.
To support the changes, schools will receive another 6cents per meal in federal funding,
The new menus won't entirely eliminate favorite food choices among kids, like pizza and french fries, but they will provide alternatives.