The USDA is currently in the process of reinventing unhealthy school lunch meals around the country to include healthier options. The new lunchtime guidelines, which were announced last year, will go into effect this school year and are expected to help reduce child obesity and health care costs. The new lunch meals will include more whole grains, low-fat milk, and less sodium. The meals will also be limiting students to one cup of starchy vegetables per week, which means French fries will no longer be served everyday. New guidelines are also being set in place for snacks sold in the cafeteria and vending machines. The new USDA guidelines include the first calorie maximum and minimum limits for school meals, gradually reducing the amount of sodium put into school meals, banning trans fats from meals, including more serving fruits and vegetables, serving only low-fat or non fat milk, and increasing the amount of whole grains being served. Special treats, such as deep-fried foods, will only be offered once a week rather than previously when they were offered everyday. Besides attempting to cut back on child obesity, the USDA is striving to teach children how to eat properly, and they believe that the best way to do this is to begin in the schools. By enforcing healthy school lunches, children will learn how to eat better and will hopefully continue to eat this way at home. Schools are hoping that students will still enjoy the new lunches despite the changes and healthier options.
Hopkins Academy has been following the new guidelines in order to keep the reimbursements that are given to the lunch program by the USDA. If the lunch program decided not to follow these guidelines, they would lose the reimbursements and the school would lose grants. The whole school would suffer for the lack of healthy changes in the cafeteria. Hopkins is currently under the “three-year plan”, which means that health changes in school lunch will occur over a three year period. One of the first changes that was required at Hopkins was the availability of free water for all students. Hopkins was already covered for this because of the water fountains that can be found throughout the school. The cafeteria also had to incorporate more whole grains, leafy greens, beans, and orange and yellow vegetables into lunchtime meals. The lunchroom also cannot serve more than eight ounces of juice at one time and cannot serve beverages with a high sugar content. Within the next year, the lunch rules are expected to become stricter, and in 2012, Hopkins will no longer be allowed to sell flavored milk. The cafeteria is currently fighting this issue so that they can continue to serve flavored milk because they fear that if this is taken away, students will refuse to drink milk, therefore lacking proper amounts of calcium in their diet.
So what about snack time favorites, like ice cream? The cafeteria is still allowed to sell ice cream due to the size, which cuts out calories and fat content. Some snacks have been removed from the lunchroom, but most are still there for students to purchase. The new lunch rules seem to be accepted amongst the students at Hopkins Academy, but regardless of acceptance, students will need to get used to the new rules if they would like to continue to buy school lunch. The new guidelines may be strict, but they will help kids all across america fight health issues and obesity by eating healthier.