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New school meal guidelines increase fruits, vegetables, whole grains


Capital Press

KENNEWICK, Wash. -- First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today unveiled new guidelines for school lunches.

According to the USDA, the standards require:

* Fruits and vegetables every day.

* More whole-grain foods.

* Only fat-free or low-fat milk.

* Fewer calories based on the age of children to ensure proper portion size and more efforts to reduce saturated fat, trans fat and sodium.

A sample menu comparing lunch offering examples before and after the changes to the standards replaced a hot dog on a bun, canned pears and low-fat milk with whole wheat spaghetti with meat sauce, whole wheat roll, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, kiwi halves, low-fat milk, low-fat ranch dressing and soft margarine.

The USDA said the new standards are expected to cost $3.2 billion over the next five years. They are part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

Other changes to come include:

* Implementing the nutrition standards for foods and beverages sold in vending machines and other venues on school campuses.

* More funding for schools -- an additional 6 cents a meal -- tied to serving improved meals.

* Training and technical assistance to help schools meet the standards.

The standards also provide more time for schools to implement the changes, which will be phased in over a three-year period beginning in the 2012-2013 school year. For example, schools will be permitted to focus on changes in lunches in the first year, with most breakfast changes coming later.

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