Government Pushes for Healthier Lunch Options
New lunch program aims to fight childhood obesity
The government is pushing new rules about the way students eat at school.
It is a multi-billion dollar program aimed at reducing childhood obesity rates.
The final standards outlined by the federal government will reduce the amount of fatty foods that kids are offered through the school meals program, via calories and portion sizes,
The levels will be limited based on the age of the child being served.
Both parents and health experts agree that this is only one of the necessary changes needed if America is to see a drop in the number of overweight children.
Three out of every ten children are overweight or obese.
Kids will be served twice as much fruit and vegetables. Parents have doubts that the kids will actually eat the nutritious food though.
“Realistically – I think that a lot more fruits and vegetables are going to end up in the garbage,” said mother of three Christa Metzger. “The kids will choose not to eat the salad and what are you going to do about that? I mean, you can't force feed them the vegetables and the fruit.”
Especially if there are sugary options available.
“I've seen it because I substitute teach and I see it at the elementary level kids, [they] will dig through their own lunch, and parents will give them all sorts of good stuff and they'll go right for the cookies,” said Metzger.
The new regulations also means less salt and no more whole milk.
“All school districts across the state and across the nation are going to be required to lower the amount of sodium, lower the amount of trans-fats: They will be required to go to low-fat milk [and] non-fat milk,” said Karol Fink, of the DHSS Obesity Program. Fries and tater tots are still allowed, but health officials hope they will be very limited.
“There's a requirement for whole grains for the first time ever, so we are really excited to see additional whole-grains and additional fiber and nutrients in the school lunch program,” said Fink.
The school district has already started making changes, according to officials.
The biggest challenge is the cost. Alaska tends to have pricier fruits and veggies.
“Hopefully, Alaska will have some differential pricing or reimbursement – just because our costs are more expensive and generally the school lunch program does do that,” said Fink.
Experts say making changes is an important step toward improving children’s health.
The federal government will give states $3.2 billion over five years to implement the new changes. In the coming year, changes will be made to the lunch menu. Changes will be made to the breakfast menu in phases over the next three years.