New School Meal Standards: How Does Wake County Measure Up?
On Jan. 25, 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture unveiled new standards for school meals for healthier meals at schools across the nation—the first changes in more than 15 years. They are designed to improve the health and nutrition of nearly 32 million kids that participate in school meal programs every school day.
The changes will be phased in over a three-year period, starting with the 2012-2013 school year. For example, schools will be permitted to focus on changes in lunches during the first year, with most changes in breakfast coming in future years.
Written by Marilyn Moody, Director, WCPSS Child Nutrition Services (CNS)
Overall, students in Wake County schools are receiving meals that come very close to meeting the new standards. The following is a listing of the new requirements and how Wake Schools compare:
Fruit & Vegetables: increase servings at lunch and in 2013 increase servings at breakfast. Wake offers students in grades 6-12 three half-cup servings per meal. The third serving will be extended to all students next school year to comply with the increased servings required. At breakfast, fruit or juice has been a choice, and in 2013, both fruit and juice can be selected for breakfast.
Vegetables: specific categories of vegetables must be offered weekly. Wake students already receive this requirement. Dark green/deep orange vegetables and legumes are offered weekly. A different vegetable is on the menu each day of the week.
Meat/Meat Alternate: 8-12 ounces weekly based upon grade level. Wake students will continue to receive a minimum 2 ounces of meat/meal alternate daily. High schools will continue to offer 12 ounces minimum weekly.
Grains: 8-12-ounce equivalents weekly based upon grade level. Wake students will continue to receive a minimum of 2-ounce equivalents of grains daily. High schools will continue to offer the 12 ounces weekly.
Whole grains: half the grains must be whole grain-rich, and in 2014 all grains must be whole grain-rich. In Wake County Schools, only two bread items at lunch must be converted to whole grain-rich: hot dog buns and corn meal muffins. All other breads and rolls are already whole wheat or whole grain-rich. In 2013, breakfast breads must meet this standard. Wake will work with vendors to find breakfast breads that meet these criteria. The additional year will allow bakeries to reformulate biscuits and other breakfast breads to meet the requirements.
Milk: fat free flavored milk, 1% or skim white milk. Wake already meets these criteria.
Wake County schools are well prepared to incorporate the new requirements in the breakfast and lunch menu planning. Students should see very little differences in the selections offered daily. Snacks were not addressed in the new standards; however, Wake County Schools will continue to offer only snacks in grades K-5 that meet the guidelines set by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation
. Snacks in grades 6-12 are all single-serving packs and contain less than 200 calories. Beverages in grades 6-12 meet those set by the National Beverage Association
and the Bill Clinton Foundation.