Schools Need to Provide Healthier, Lower Calorie Meals Despite Cost


A new report is suggesting some rather dramatic changes in the way we feed our children in public schools. A new report is suggesting that schools need to provide healthier meals despite the increase of cost.

“These changes could cost more, but the investment would be worth it because it could help improve kids' eating habits and overall health,” says Virginia Stallings, chairman of the expert panel that prepared the Institute of Medicine report.

The federal Institute of Medicine released a report advising for new standards in public school cafeterias. They are suggesting more produce and whole grains while trying to limit calorie intake. Currently, about 31 million school children (about 60%) get their lunch at school every day; about 10 million eat school breakfast.

The report further suggests that children attending schools should be offered at least two to five servings of fruit, one to two servings of vegetables and nine to 13 servings of grains per lunch. The federal Institute of Medicine also suggests a maximum calorie count of between 650 and 850 calories per lunch. The recommendations will bring school meals in line with the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans and Dietary Reference Intakes.


"It's about time," says Matthew Sharp of the California Food Policy Advocates and one of the people who testified before the panel. Meals, he says, should be nutritious and affordable and they also should "teach kids healthy habits" and expose them to a variety of foods.

This plan will not be cheap. The committee believes that the price of breakfast could soar 20 percent, and lunch prices could go up by 4 percent. The committee admits that yes, its recommendations would increase costs and they have called for a higher federal reimbursement to school districts.

“Today, overweight children outnumber undernourished children, and childhood obesity is often referred to as an epidemic in both the medical and community settings,” Virginia Stallings, who chaired the report committee, wrote.

The National School Lunch program is available in 99 percent of U.S. public schools, and about 30 million schoolchildren took part in 2007 at a cost of $8.7 billion. The breakfast program is available in about 85 percent of schools and serves more than 10 million children daily.

References: USA TODAY and LA Times

Written by Tyler Woods Ph.D.
Tucson, Arizona
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