July 12 2013
Vicki E. Alger
The GAO released a report last month that found the USDA’s food regulations implemented this year are burdensome, costly, and self-defeating, based on their visits to school districts across the country.
Food service directors are reporting that fewer students are participating in the lunch program, and those that do hate the food—much of which goes into the garbage. The cost of this waste topped $300,000 at one district. Meanwhile, hungry students simply go to McDonald’s or local sandwich shops and buy what they want.
For the first time, the Agriculture Department is telling schools what sorts of snacks they can sell. The new restrictions...fill a gap in nutrition rules that allowed many students to load up on fat, sugar and salt despite the existing guidelines for healthy meals. ...
The federal rules put calorie, fat, sugar and sodium limits on almost everything sold during the day at 100,000 schools — expanding on the previous rules for meals. The Agriculture Department sets nutritional standards for schools that receive federal funds to help pay for lunches, and that covers nearly every public school and about half of private ones.
One oasis of sweetness and fat will remain: Anything students bring from home, from bagged lunches to birthday cupcakes, is exempt from the rules.