I have written before about the new USDA rules. The goals are admirable and the intent is wise: get kids to eat better. ‘Better’ is open to interpretation, though. The 2012 USDA rules put an emphasis on more variety and helpings of fruits and veggies and strict calorie and sodium limits. That seems like a smart move given the health problems many of our kids are facing.
A less publicized change is that there are now minimums and maximums every day on the amounts of grains and proteins served in public schools that are offer the national school lunch program (NSLP). This sounds fine and dandy in theory. From the front lines, though, I am telling you that what likely sounded reasonable in the USDA’s deliberation rooms could have been better scrutinized when it came to implementation in the Nation’s school lunch rooms.
Basically this one rule means that all kids have to take some grains and some proteins every day. It seems harmless unless you are the gluten intolerant student who is required by the USDA to take a wheat-based grain, or the vegan kid who must at least be served a string cheese. Small rules sometimes mean big changes, but we at Choicelunch are doing our best to keep them barely noticeable and we are doing our best to give lots of options. Nevertheless, not everyone is pleased with the changes.
To comply with the new minimums and maximums of grains and protein, we mark for the students which entrees should be paired with our assortment of snacks to be more balanced. So, for example, our chicken tenders should really be paired with a grain. Our Genuine Annie’s Mac and Cheese should be served with a protein. Again, this seems like a smart approach to well-rounded eating, but forcing a kid to take BBQ Popchips, when they would rather have roasted seaweed or nutrient-dense sunflower seeds… was that the intent of the new USDA rules? Probably not.
For parents of kids in NSLP schools, here are the entrees that are supposed to be complemented by a specific snack category according to the government edicts, in case you are curious:
Entrees requiring a grain component:
– BBQ Chicken
– Three Bean Chili
– Herb Roasted Chicken
– Shepherd’s Pie
– Baked Potato with Chili
– GF Chicken Strips
– Chicken Tenders
Entrees requiring a protein component:
– Pesto Pasta
– Mac & Cheese (.5 oz.)
– Pasta Marinara
– Spaghetti with Marinara
– Bagel w/ Cream Cheese
– Buttered Noodles
– Cheese Ravioli
– Veggie Fried Rice
We will continue to develop seasonal, chef-prepared lunches kids look forward to and which parents can feel proud of… oh, and which meet the Federal laws, too!