Great news for students that benefit from local school meal programs! The USDA has just announced new reforms that will allow the operators of the local school meal programs to regain control of their menus.
Back when I was a kid, the school breakfast and lunch programs were designed to help those who weren't always able to get a good meal before and during school. For some kids, school meals were the only meals they would get some days. Its hard to learn math over the sound of your stomach rumbling.
Thankfully, there were always a couple of seasoned lunch ladies behind the counter, who know all of the recipes by heart and sometime made up a couple when supplies were low. And if they knew your 'situation' sometime they might even give you a little extra on your plate.
Over the years, due to drastic cuts in the federal and state budgets, and strict regulations that changes what foods were actually considered nutritious (i.e. ketchup counting as vegetable), many school meal programs and the children they served suffered as a result.
Now the USDA has issued new reforms that will:
  • Allowing local schools to offer more vegetable varieties, while keeping plenty of veggies in each meal;
  • Making it easier for schools to offer school lunch entrees for a la carte purchase, thereby reducing food waste;
  • Providing schools options to customize meal patterns to best serve children in different grades or smaller schools who eat together;
  • Supporting a more customized school breakfast environment by letting schools adjust fruit servings and making it simpler to offer meats/meat alternates, ultimately encouraging breakfast options outside the cafeteria so students can start their day with a healthy breakfast; and
  • Shifting to a performance-focused administrative review process that is less burdensome and time consuming, which would increase collaboration with operators to improve program integrity.

With so many kids having different dietary requirements and financial situations that need to be considered, these new reforms will definitely make it easier for the kids that need it get the nutrition the require and get the education they deserve.