USDA Report Finds More Schools Offer Low-Fat Alternatives
School breakfast and lunch programs are offering more fruits and vegetables, while also reducing the levels of sodium, fat and cholesterol, a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found. The USDA conducted the study during the 1998-1999 school year after a 1991-1992 survey "alarmed federal officials." The AP/Nando Times/Modesto Bee reports that four out of every five schools offer low-fat lunches and the overall fat content of meals has dropped from 38% of calories to 34% of calories. The USDA requires schools to keep fat content at no more than 30%, but has not penalized schools for failing to meet the standards. To cut the fat, school lunch menus and food preparations also have been altered, as turkey and chicken are now mixed with beef to lower meals' fat content. To further meet standards, the USDA has allowed schools to substitute soy and yogurt products for meat, despite objections from the beef industry. Although schools have reduced meals' fat content, the reports says that some need to increase the amount of vitamins and minerals. Seventy percent of elementary schools meet the federal standard, but only 20% of secondary schools provide "at least one-third" of the recommended nutritional content. In addition, 31% of secondary schools and 11% of elementary schools said they increased the number of snacks and candy they offer. Marilyn Hurt, president of the American School Food Service Association, said, "What we've really been focusing on for the last six years is to enhance our school meals so that they do offer nutrient-dense foods that will benefit our children." But she added, "Kids choose what foods they know. If they are eating a lot a pizza at home, they're going to choose pizza at school. It's pretty hard to overcome what they have been learning at home" (Brasher, AP/Nando Times/Modesto Bee, 1/10). To read the USDA report go to: http://www.fns.usda.gov/oane/MENU/Published/CNP/CNP.HTM#SNDAIIThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.