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Healthy Meals and Healthy Kids

Posted by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in Food and Nutrition
Feb 21, 2017
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined First Lady Michelle Obama and celebrity cook Rachel Ray at Parklawn Elementary School in Alexandria, Virginia, Wednesday, January 25, 2012 to speak with faculty and parents about the United States Department of Agriculture’s new and improved nutrition standards for school lunches. An important accomplishment of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that President Obama signed into law last year, USDA is making the first major changes in school meals in over 15 years. The new standards encourage fruits and vegetables every day of the week, increasing offerings of whole grain-rich foods, offering only fat-free or low-fat milk and making sure kids are getting proper portion sizes. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined First Lady Michelle Obama and celebrity cook Rachel Ray at Parklawn Elementary School in Alexandria, Virginia, Wednesday, January 25, 2012 to speak with faculty and parents about the United States Department of Agriculture’s new and improved nutrition standards for school lunches. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols

Today we celebrate an historic achievement on behalf of kids across America. We have accomplished a critical step on the road to deliver healthier, more nutritious food to our nation’s schoolchildren.  Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture released the final rule that sets the standards for critical improvements to the child nutrition programs that serve millions of children across the country every day.

The new rule implements important provisions of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. It will substantially increase offerings of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, reduce saturated fat, trans fats and sodium, and set sensible calorie limits based on the age of children being served.

The final standards make the same kinds of practical changes that many parents are already encouraging at home, including:

  • Ensuring students are offered both fruits and vegetables every day of the week;
  • Substantially increasing offerings of whole grain-rich foods;
  • Offering only fat-free or low-fat milk varieties;
  • Limiting calories based on the age of children being served to ensure proper portion size; and
  • Increasing the focus on reducing the amounts of saturated fat, trans fats and sodium.

First Lady Michelle Obama announced the new meal standards during a guest appearance at Parklawn elementary school in Alexandria, Va., today. The President and the First Lady have advocated strongly for passing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, and USDA is in lockstep with them to continue to focus on the twin issues of childhood obesity and hunger.

The strength of our communities, our economy, and our national security, rely on the health of our children. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act strengthens the school nutrition environment, expands access to healthy meals, and simplifies processes so every child can receive a well-balanced school meal.

While the rule is based on the law and latest science, USDA knew that responsible change had to take into account the real circumstances of communities across America.  So in finalizing the rule, we reached beyond the Washington beltway and asked for comments from the public.

Thousands of parents, educators and nutrition advocates responded withtheir views.  And we listened, making changes to the rule to ensure that the new standards not only do what’s right for children’s health, they do it in a way that’s achievable in schools across the nation.

So on behalf of the USDA family, I say thank you for caring and supporting our children. We should all celebrate this tremendous accomplishment while looking forward to those achievements yet to come.

Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition

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Jan 25, 2012

This is a total joke. I think the next step for this regime is to put armed troops in the schools and make sure the kids ACTUALLY eat.

james cunningham
Jan 25, 2012

Ok. So a tiny bit of progress APPEARS to be made... some fruit and some vegetables may reach our kids plates... but in ADDITION to what???
The USDA is FAR from doing it's job in protecting our food supply and our children's health.
Michelle is either blindly mis-informed or just plain ignorant.
If you think the USDA is not being run by chemical companies and Big Ag then you are living in a dream. No "Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act" is going to protect our kids from the additives and toxins in those fruits and veges. They are serving up poison wrapped in some sugar-coated "save the children" pledge.
The USDA not only allows but strongly promotes genetically modified foods, the GE ingredients remain unlabeled and well-over 80% of our foods contain them.
Non-organic fruits and vegetables are soaked in cancer-inducing pesticides and processed meals served in our schools are filled with corn syrup... one of the leading contributors to obesity, diabetes, and cancer.
Real progress will be made when the public does their homework and realizes who and what the USDA, the FDA, the EPA are promoting and it is not HEALTH.

james cunningham
Jan 25, 2012

why are there "no" comments?
I made one...

Jan 25, 2012

Factory meat and dairy. Low-fat and Fat-free factory dairy at that. Pesticides. High Fructose Corn Syrup. GE ingredients. No thank you. I'll continue packing my kids' lunches and fighting the good fight while the rest of the country accepts this is an improvement. Wake up, America!

Ross Scott
Jan 25, 2012

What do you eat Mr Cunningham? Do you produce all your own food or are you a wealthy person who can afford to eat only organic food? Or are you just a nut?

You Might Want To Look Up Regime
Jan 25, 2012

Healthy kids are a joke? Are you even serious? What should kids be eating, cheetos and mt dew, so they turn into unhealthy teens carrying over their bad habits? Also, regime? LOL, I can only assume you've never lived under a 'regime' and that you're just another brainwashed fox news watcher.

Jan 25, 2012

Its a start and better than what is being offered now...why such negativity!!!

Andy Smith
Jan 25, 2012

As President of the Girl Scouts and founder of Let's Move!, when will you rid Girl-Scout cookies -- and the entire American diet -- of PALM OIL? It raises cholesterol, and harvesting it involves paying indigent workers slave wages to destroy rain forests!

Jan 25, 2012

Yeah... Um, TOTALLY agree with Simpleaim & James Cunningham. IN ADDITION: If your milk is not organic, (which it should be!) feed them the full fat kind, for heaven's sake! At least they'll get a little teeny tiny bit of a few measly nutrients that are left after it's pasteurized & homogenized, & had hormones & antibiotics added because the cows the milk came from were fed that crap. They don't know or care what NUTRITION is. They don't know or care what HEALTH is. They just know and care what MONEY is.

Jan 25, 2012

It's a good step, but more needs to be done. Too bad the majority of the American public and the government is ignorant of the toxins in our food supply, unlike other industrialized countries in the world, that have laws against GMO's, food dies and etc. Only when they get cancer they switch to organic.

Karen Sweet
Jan 25, 2012

Providing nutritious foods for our nation's school children is very challenging, considering dietary guidelines and budgetary constraints for the infrastructure and food. For a large percentage of children, the 1-2 meals per day they receive at school is all they'll have five days of the week. I thank the food service professionals in the school systems for doing what they can to serve nutritious foods the children will actually eat.

Many food banks now provide food packs on Fridays for the children to take home for their weekend meals. Consider giving to the food banks to complement the school program.

I am a beef producer. My cattle are raised on grass year round, and my one year old calves eat grass products (grains, tomatoe pumice, etc)to keep them healthy while they grow to produce the nutritious beef. I hope the school dietary budgets allow for some meat with its monounsaturated fat and other nutrients that helps children grow, play and learn.

Farmers and ranchers raise food crops with care and the challenges of weather, regulations, markets and economics. We'll all depend on new technology, new research, & new policies to provide healthy food for our growing population around the world. We do this while taking care of the land and our rural communities.

Jan 25, 2012

Are you still going to be serving chocolate and strawberry milk? Think of the sugar that could easily be removed from our kids' diet--and I'll bet almost all of them would still drink milk.

Jan 26, 2012

These changes are not new many school nutrition programs are already serving more fruits and vegetables, watching fats, moved from frying to baking, serving more whole grain items yet this article makes it sound like all school nutrition programs are making our children fat and unhealthy. Many school nutrition programs need funding to protect the programs that are doing these changes.

Jan 26, 2012

At least Mrs. Obama is trying to lead our children down the right path of eating healthy so that when they become adults they have already established good eating habits. Folks are always criticizing what the President and his wife are doing when they are doing good things for the people; no matter what they do there will always be negative, ignorant people putting them down.

Debbie Jager
Jan 26, 2012

So, Mr. Cunningham, what in your opinion is safe to eat if ALL of our food contributes to horrible disease and illness.
Many schools including our district promote healthy eating by providing salad bars and fruit bars at each school. We have been using whole grain items for several years. We have a garden in an attempt to promote home grown veggies.
This program may not be perfect, but it is a start.

Carol Curtiss
Jan 26, 2012

I agree with James cunningham. However it has taken years to get to this point. At least it increases the awareness of what our children are eating. I have done my homework. I don't like genectically modified food. However, it starts at home. Keep up the good work of educating everyone about what they are eating.

Jan 26, 2012

It may not be a perfect solution, but at least it's a start. I'm just happy to see that this issue is finally being brought to the forefront.
Also, don't forget that childhood obesity and unhealthy eating habits would not be nearly as much of a problem if parents took some responsibility for their children's diets, instead of relying on the government to do it for them. That's where the REAL changes should be taking place!

chris kazaam
Jan 26, 2012

Most of the recommendations below show a vegan/backwards approach to health. But, most people want to feed starving children “something,” I guess. Here’s my view of Mrs. Obama’s recs->

■“Ensuring students are offered both fruits and vegetables every day of the week;”
Fruits & veggies have ALWAYS been a staple of mass-created school lunches, so no surprise there. Unfortunately, the amount comes at the expense of more important ANIMAL – based proteins & fats essential for rebuilding muscle & development of brain & nervous tissue. Broccoli blocks zinc absorption!
■Substantially increasing offerings of whole grain-rich foods;”
Because most available “whole” grains/seed are NEVER soured/fermented like it was centuries ago, 99% of modern-day “whole grain-rich” foods contain vast quantities of a nasty chemical called PHYTIC ACID, which contributes to tooth decay(Phosphorous & calcium imbalances), promotes syndrome X / heart disease, etc & I’ll stop here, it’s too depressing.
■Offering only fat-free or low-fat milk varieties;
Unless the milk is RAW & full of RAW fat, it is just another dead, offensive drink and does not benefit growing children’s jaw, teeth or bone development.
■Limiting calories based on the age of children being served to ensure proper portion size;
■Increasing the focus on reducing the amounts of saturated fat, trans fats and sodium.
Since salt granules(any kind) are hazardous to red blood cells, I won’t argue too much with “sodium,” but sodium can be obtained healthfully from good shellfish, deep-see fish(tuna, etc) fresh tomatoes, celery juice & real food. But the USDA needs to stop shoving the anti-saturated fat propaganda down our throats. Ever since the population(men especially) have cut their cholesterol intake(BTW 70% is manufactered by YOUR liver), we have seen skyrocketing #s of cases of Heart disease and Adult-onset diabetes/syndrome X. Amazing since man subsisted on a high animal fat / protein diet for 3 million years & enduring nasty environments. And cholesterol is necessary for cellular disposal and manufacturing of testosterone & estrogen & other hormones. The replacement of butter with vegetable oils(cooked) has cause more cardiovascular & intracellular damage in our population. I know the pharmaceutical houses, FDA, & medical industry always pushes for this type of paradigm because, if followed, forces people to go in a direction of taking vast quantities of drugs, which suppress detoxification and symptoms, but cause disease down the road. I suggest you ignore the USDA's new or previous recommendations, if you care about your health.

Deborah Pilgrim
Jan 26, 2012

Texas has already been doing most of this. We have fresh fruit out for lunch each day. We only use Fat Free Strawberry and Chocolate Milk and 1% White Milk. We only bake, no fried foods. The kids are not use to Home Cooking. We do alot of our meals from scatch but we do have Pizza, Chicken Nuggets and Steak Fingers. They are so use to Fast Foods that it is hard to please them. I understand about the obesity problem but do not blame it on the School Breakfast and Lunch Program. Sometimes the Breakfast and Lunch at School are the only meals they recieve. I believe that the kids are not exercising anymore. They are in front of the TV or Computers.Our food cost keeps going up with all the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables but the Government is not helping with the cost.

Jan 26, 2012

Most of this is already being done.

The biggest thing that can be done is education! This education needs to be done at HOME not just at school. Parents need to teach and provide healthy meals for dinner every night. If you do not know how to cook then learn and then teach your kids. Cooking is as important as reading! We have all grown up in the life of convenience. I am too busy to cook lets just throw something in the oven or lets do takeout. Teach them that cooking something from scratch can taste a hundred times better than any store bought product! Show that vegetables cooked properly can taste awesome and they will crave vegetables. Opening up a can of corn or boiling a bag of frozen vegtables is not going to get you or your kids to eat better.

I had to laugh when I read a comment that they were going to pack there kids lunch everyday because school lunch is unhealthy. Just the other day I was at one of my elementary schools doing a special lunch for some of the students. Principal came over to me and said that one of the students would not be eating what I brought because they (parents) did not want their son eating high fat, high sodium and high sugar foods which they claim are served daily at school. Now on this particular day I prepared a make your own salad bar. Yes there was ham which has a lot of salt but the dressings I use are low fat and I provided plenty of fresh cut vegetables. What could be healthier than a salad? Kid brings his lunch in and it was a Genoa salami and American cheese sandwich on soft white bread, a bag of chips and one of those nasty flavored and colored sugar beverages and an apple (which he did not eat.) Seriously? His lunch was unhealthier than any lunch I serve at any of my schools.

I read a few comments about using only organic foods. What rock did you crawl out from under? Even if all pesticides and chemicals were banned you would still find residue many years after in the soil. Another thing to consider is that the supply cannot meet the demand and most families could not afford to potentially pay double the cost for each of there kids to have lunch everyday.

Overall it is a step in the right direction but I would not expect things to get fixed overnight. In my own opinion the problem started when the great depression hit and has only grown since.

Jan 26, 2012

I believe James Cunningham is just a NUT!! Sometimes you feel like a NUT, Sometimes you don't!!!

Jan 26, 2012

I am so glad that so many of you are able to grow EVERYTHING you eat and put into your child's lunch box. Are you making sure you buy only organically grown seeds and use only organic fertilizers? After all, you seem to think the American Farmer cannot be trusted to feed your family. It would be nice if some of you realized what farmers in this country go through to put food on the table for our citizens. Do you realize that farming is about the riskiest business in the world? A farmer can sink hundreds of thousands of dollars into a crop and do everything just right only to have it totally wiped out by weather, insects or disease - none of which he or she has any control over (unless they can use the right chemicals for insect and disease control). Can you imagine the situation we would be in if half our crops were lost in a year? You want to know what hungry feels like? Don't say we can just get food from the store (they don't grow it in a warehouse) or from some other country (want to know what chemicals you are getting in your imported food???). It is not possible for every citizen in our country to have enough land and other resources to grow all their own food. We depend very heavily on the American Farmer and what they do each day to provide us with food and fiber and it is time we appreciated them. Aren't you glad you don't have to milk the cow and gather the eggs and feed all your livestock before you go to work each morning? I'm glad to see schools encouraging kids to eat more simple, healthy foods. I remember a time when some folks wanted a packet of ketchup to count as a serving of vegetables!! Yes, there are a lot of things wrong with our food supply, but what country do you want to trade with (keep price in mind when you choose)? Again, grow as much as you can, donate your extras to a food bank, teach your children to be healthy in all their habits - not just what they eat - and thank a farmer that we are a free nation. A country that can't feed itself isn't really a free country. Be thankful for the things that are right. Help fix the things that are wrong (and that doesn't mean just complain about them).

Jan 26, 2012

This is ridiculous. I have one healthy grown child (age 26)and I have a healthy 9 year old. I don't need someone who has nothing better to do telling me what to feed my child. Milk is good for your teeth and bones doesn't she know that.You don't punish the health normal weight child for the obese child.

Farmer Support
Jan 26, 2012

It is clear that some of the comments made here were made by people who clearly know nothing about farming. With the advances in agriculture (yes the advances that you talk so badly about), we are able to feed our country and provide nutrition for some of the rest of the world. With farms disappearing due to urban development, it is important that we find ways to produce more food on less land. This does involve genetically altering crops for better yields and using pesticides to control total crop loss. Unless you would rather implement population management so that we have to feed less people, these advances in agriculture are needed. Organic farming cannot and will not ever be able to produce the food requirements needed by our country. This is impractical and food prices would definitely skyrocket. I have nothing against organic practices, but I know it only provides food on the local level. Use common sense and don't believe everything you hear. Agriculture drives this country and without these advances, we'd be suffering.

Jan 27, 2012

Do you actually think kids are getting obese from their school lunches? I believe it is what they ingest from after school to bedtime and the weekends. Some parents cannot even get a bowl of cereal ready for their children in the morning. Do you think they are making them healthy meals at home? Look at the sedentary life children live.

William Bowen
Jan 27, 2012

I'm glad this seems to be a good-intentioned policy. Even our adults struggle with portion control and eating fruits and vegetables. However, I am saddened by the negative comments (nutrition science isn't perfect, but policy needs to address the masses, not the individual - if you don't like it, pack your kids lunch! Also, progress isn't made in leaps and bounds, but step by step.) Secondly, I don't understand how government keeps pandering to lobbyists - everybody knows that pizza isn't a vegetable, yet it is counted as so apparently, and french fries are a treat, not a dietary staple. We need to make policy with common sense, not dollars and sense.

Jan 27, 2012 in California where organic sustainable healthy etc is such a biggie...the CA food code chapter 12.6 bans the use of trans fat from being used by any food facility...
NOTE exception 'e' "this section shall not apply to public elementary, middle, junior high or high school cafeterias"

I work in elementary school sad to be designing "warming kitchens"...this is just not "real" food.

Lorri Sloate
Jan 27, 2012

I'm sorry but healthy eating habits start at home as well as any habit our children develop!!! My children, who are NOT overweight and are healthy and active, come home extremely hungry everyday after school. The lunch portions are so small and the food at our school is not very tasty either and this is due to all the restraits to have more healthy food. And they are not allowed to get seconds which I am willing to pay for. Now I do not allow my kids to over do it on the sweets but they are kids its what they like and if they want a honey bun or a brownie for a snack that is what they have. Its all about "in moderation." I do make more healthy foods available to them as well and they do choose to eat those as well. Choco milk or strawberry 2% milk once a day is not going to hurt them. I think a major underlying problem is that in school now the kids are not able to be active. They have one 20 min recess the 7 hours they are at school. This is not healty for them physically or mentally.

pittsviewfarm elk
Jan 28, 2012

Kudos to karen sweets, and our first lady. I also raise animals that graze on clover/grass, and suplement there diet to there seasonal needs,NO CHEMICALS. I love. Jamie Oliver, and all who try to make our kids meals good and good for them, generally cheaper. Right now I'm concerned about the kids that don't eat when not in school. When those kids are rural, how do they get food from food banks... I'm farming like it use to be, the tough fact is for me to sell great for you Elk meat, It has to be processed through USDA or state inspected facility, which makes the price go up. If I have the local butcher that we locals know and trust, process the meat, I can only give away the meat. Hard to keep in farming just giving away quality meat, but we do. Trying to give. Back and local. And keep it positive, how does all the negative help?

Jan 31, 2012

Can't wait for four more years of triumphs from our Great President and his lovely First Lady! Thank you for carrying our nation and helping our kids eat right.

Mar 07, 2012

The fact that we are trying to make school lunches more nutritious, is wonderful. However, I really don't understand how putting a pink slime made from meat parts and chemicals, that we refuse to eat or even feed to most of our pets, is a good idea. What exactly are you people thinking? Oh that's right, you are just as corrupt as any of our government agencies. I would really like to know the names of the lobbyists that paid you all off. My child will no longer be buying school lunches. I really don't want to find out in 10years that your policies have given him cancer or something like that. The government doesn't understand why the people don't trust them. Gee I wonder what it could be?

Korla Pundit
Mar 13, 2012

Somebody somewhere down the line is going to SUE the government over its 40 years of pushing the anti-fat, pro-carb agenda. Attention all you non-scientists in the food police: Kids NEED Fat! They will become very unhealthy without it.

Pushing the assinine food pyramid has CAUSED the current epidemic of childhood obesity and the rise in pediatric diabetes, not to mention the rise in heart disease and diabetes in the adult population.

High-fructose corn syrup and grain subsidizing food policy may make Iowa caucus voters happy, but it is KILLING people by the million. What do you call a crime against humanity when it is not during war time: A Peace Crime?

Let me ask you something Ms.Obama: Why do you approve of your husband's Agriculture Department buying millions of dollars worth of Pink Slime (dog food discards treated with Ammonia to make it "safe") for the federal School Lunch Program? Mmm-mmm good.

So my kids have been given Fat Free Milk against my wishes, and guess what? IT WAS CHOCOLATE MILK!!! How is this a "healthy choice"?

Mar 14, 2012

So refreshing to read all these blogs of educated parents who truly care what their kids eat. Our school has finally stopped serving flavored milk which had as much as 28 grams of sugar (via high fructose corn syrup). I think I was the only parent in the district who complained. I also think the movement to fat free milk is wrong - kids and healthy adults need dairy fat to absorb certain vitamins (like vit D).

kara bradley
Sep 05, 2012

I do not totally agree with this program. Students are wasting food during lunch because of this new program. More of the food is thrown away than what is consumed. There are not enough calories for the growing adolescent especially if they are athletes! More kids are bringing their own lunches from home so they are not buying what the school lunch serves. The two meals served at school are the only one(s) that kids eat during the day. When they go home, this is where they are eating too much junk food with high calories. This program still needs worked on!!! As a parent I would be very upset if my kids had to eat what this new program is requiring.

Hayley Skinner
Sep 10, 2012

Amen Kara & Cunningham! My son is NOT overweight by any means and is in High School with a Closed Campus (no freedom to leave the building to purchase his own lunch). I raised my children well and I am confident in their food choices for their 12-15 hour day at school. This program is not a one size fits all program by any means.I loved the choices and the government out of how insulting me as to how I'm raising my child. And its not junk food..I brown bag(fruits and vegs) from local farmers, but I don't appreciate being charged extra for not purchasing canned fruit with my hot sandwich on white bread. Yes, the can fruit gets thrown in the garbage because its cheaper to do that then purchase the sandwich by itself. Unbelievable. Needs some work is all I'm saying or Food Pantry's set up next to the garbage cans.

Sep 23, 2014

Children should be encouraged to eat healthy - but that starts at home, not at school. I ate healthy only because my parents ate healthy... it was at school that I enjoyed the bad stuff. School should not be the place where such programs are implemented, the home is the best place. What is the point of giving children fruit and vegies at school (most will end up in the bin), only to have them return home to soft drinks and TV dinners? Educate the parents and the children will follow.

Anna Cesnjevar
Aug 21, 2017

We know the struggle is real when it comes to trying to get your kids (or grown-ups!) to eat their vegetables. But there are some ways you can sneak in veggie servings without them even knowing it.This mile-high vegetable and hummus sandwich makes the perfect heart-healthy vegetarian lunch to go. Mix it up with different flavors of hummus and different types of vegetables depending on your mood.