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Healthy Meals and Healthy Kids

Ed note: this has been cross-posted from the USDA's blog

Today we celebrate an historic achievement on behalf of kids across America. We have accomplished a critical step on the road to deliver healthier, more nutritious food to our nation’s schoolchildren.  Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture released the final rule that sets the standards for critical improvements to the child nutrition programs that serve millions of children across the country every day.

The new rule implements important provisions of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. It will substantially increase offerings of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, reduce saturated fat, trans fats and sodium, and set sensible calorie limits based on the age of children being served.

The final standards make the same kinds of practical changes that many parents are already encouraging at home, including:

  • Ensuring students are offered both fruits and vegetables every day of the week;
  • Substantially increasing offerings of whole grain-rich foods;
  • Offering only fat-free or low-fat milk varieties;
  • Limiting calories based on the age of children being served to ensure proper portion size; and
  • Increasing the focus on reducing the amounts of saturated fat, trans fats and sodium.

First Lady Michelle Obama announced the new meal standards during a guest appearance at Parklawn elementary school in Alexandria, Va., today. The President and the First Lady have advocated strongly for passing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, and USDA is in lockstep with them to continue to focus on the twin issues of childhood obesity and hunger.

The strength of our communities, our economy, and our national security, rely on the health of our children. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act strengthens the school nutrition environment, expands access to healthy meals, and simplifies processes so every child can receive a well-balanced school meal.

While the rule is based on the law and latest science, USDA knew that responsible change had to take into account the real circumstances of communities across America.  So in finalizing the rule, we reached beyond the Washington beltway and asked for comments from the public.

Thousands of parents, educators and nutrition advocates responded withtheir views.  And we listened, making changes to the rule to ensure that the new standards not only do what’s right for children’s health, they do it in a way that’s achievable in schools across the nation.

So on behalf of the USDA family, I say thank you for caring and supporting our children. We should all celebrate this tremendous accomplishment while looking forward to those achievements yet to come.