The U.S. Department of Agriculture unveiled new school nutrition rules on Jan. 25, aimed at improving child nutrition and combating childhood obesity. The regulations represent the first major change to school meal standards in more than 15 years. They will be phased in over the next three years, starting in the fall.
Under the guidelines, schools will be required to offer fruits and vegetables every day, increase the number of whole-grain foods and serve foods with less sodium and fat content than previously served. Only fat-free and low-fat milk will be allowed in school cafeterias.
In addition, the rules require portion sizes that ensure children receive calories appropriate to their age. A lunch for kindergarten through fifth grade students will contain no more than 650 calories on average. The limit goes up to 700 calories for sixth through eighth grades, and 850 calories for ninth through 12th grades.
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 nutritional overhaul is estimated to cost roughly $3.2 billion to implement over the next five years. The act provides more funding to schools to help cover the extra costs associated with the menu changes.
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