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USDA Nutrition Standards at schools go into effect as of July

By Kelsie Hoitomt

As of July 1, 2014 the revised USDA Nutrition Standards for schools will take effect. Both the Glenwood City and Boyceville Districts jumped ahead of the deadline as they have been putting these new standards to use for the past two years now.

According Sherry Crosby, the Districts’ Food Service Coordinator, the new standards meant adding more whole grains and more fruits and vegetables to the menu.

The Nutrition Standards say that any food sold in schools must be a whole grain-rich grain product or have as the first ingredient a fruit, a vegetable, a dairy product or a protein food.

Or there should be a combination food that contains at least ¼ cup of fruit and/or vegetable.

Or contain ten percent of the Daily Value of one of the nutrients of public health concern in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (calcium, potassium, vitamin D, or dietary fiber).

Foods must also meet several nutrient requirements including a calorie limit of 200 or less in snack items and 350 or less in entree items.

Sodium limits for snack items are 230 mg or less on snack items and 480 mg or less on entree items. On July 1, 2016, snack items must contain 200 mg or less of sodium per item.

For fat limits, total fat is to be 35 percent or less of calories and saturated fat is to be ten percent or less of calories. Trans fat is zero grams.

And last but not least, the sugar limit is less than 35 percent of weight from total sugars in foods.

As of the 2014-15 school year, that Smart Snacks in School standards will take effect, which means the Ala Carte items will have to be the Nutrition Standards listed above.

Out of four parents who commented, two expressed that their children were always hungry after lunch due to their activity level and the fact that they seemed to be not getting enough calories because of the standard.

The other two stated that one, they didn’t like the hot lunch and always packed cold lunch from home and the other said that healthy foods should taste good, otherwise kids won’t eat it.

As for beverages, schools may sell plain water with or without carbonation, unflavored low fat milk, unflavored or flavored fat free milk and milk alternatives permitted by NSLP/SBP, 100 percent fruit or vegetables juice and 100 percent fruit and vegetable juice diluted with water (with or without carbonation) and no added sweeteners.

Elementary schools may sell eight ounce portions, while middle schools and high schools may sell up to 12 ounce portions of milk and juice. There is no portion size limit for plain water.

Beyond that, the standards allow additional no calorie and lower calorie beverage options for high school students.

Aside from the regular school day, there are also requirements set in place on “fundraisers” which could be an athletic event.

The requirements listed are that food items that meet nutrition requirements are not limited. The standards do not apply during non-school hours, on weekends and at off campus fundraising events.

And lastly, the standards provide a special exemption for infrequent fundraisers that do not meet the nutrition standards.

Each State agency is responsible for establishing the number of exempt fundraisers that may be held in schools each year.