USDA Changes Standards For School Lunches To Encourage Healthy Eating

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BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Sweeping changes are on the way for school lunches. For the first time in more than a decade, the federal government changes what students eat at school.

Gigi Barnett looks at the impact on your children.

“What would you like?”

Most students at Dumbarton Middle School in Baltimore County know what they want for lunch, but when it comes to this question:

“Anything else?”

…They skip the extra veggies and fruit.

But this week, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) changed its standards for school lunches. Now, cafeterias nationwide will slash sodium, cut calories and reduce fat on the menu.

“Usually the things that tend to have the most sugar are the things that taste good,” one Dumbarton student explained. “So things like cookies, chips, things with high calories are usually things that taste the best.”

Erin Peisach is a dietitian with ShopRite Supermarkets. She says before the changes, schools were sending mixed messages about healthy eating.

“They’re trying to increase nutrition education in the schools, and the lunches and the breakfasts, if they’re serving things that are not coinciding with what they’re learning in the classroom, they’re not getting the right message across,” Peisach said.

Under the new guidelines, schools must now serve a fruit and a vegetable to students everyday and they have to be larger portions. The last time the USDA changed its school lunch menu was 15 years ago.

“We talk about healthy eating all the time,” parent Greg Thomas said.

Thomas’ daughter, Isabelle, eats the school lunch every day. He says the changes– considering the number of overweight students nationwide– may take years to see.

“I just think that it’s going to be hard to convince the older kids because they’re so used to the junk food,” Thomas said. “But if you start with the young kids, and bring them up, I think they will be just fine.”

The new healthy menus begin next school year.

First lady Michelle Obama unveiled the new healthy lunch changes this week.

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