New School Meal Rules on Track with Taher’s Food4Life Initiative
Chef-developed, registered dietitian-approved meals served in twelve states
By Ruth Chipps, MS, RD, National Director, Nutrition & Wellness, Taher, Inc.
It is back to school time and new school menu regulations for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), administered by the USDAtake effect this week throughout the country. These are the first significant changes in nearly fifteen years and are part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act passed by congress. The effort was championed by First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her Let’s Move! Campaign.
The new USDA rules are designed to improve health and nutrition of over 32 million children. Following are some of the changes:
- Lots of fruits & vegetables: The required offering has doubled. Each student must have at least 1/2 cup fruit or vegetable. (Half of the tray will be fruits & vegetables when appropriate amounts are taken).
- Eat the rainbow: A total of ¾ cup orange or red vegetable and least 1/2 cup of each of the following are required per week: Dark green vegetable, starchy vegetable (green peas, corn, white potatoes) and a dried bean/pea (legume) option.
- Whole grains will comprise at least half of the grain offerings.
- Milk choices: 1% or skim (fat-free). All flavored milk must be fat-free.
- Portion Limits: A minimum and maximum calorie level is specified for three age groups: Grades K-5, 6-8 and 9-12.
- Other requirements include limits on saturated fat, sodium and zero trans fat items.
Taher, Inc. Food 4 Life® Initiative – Ahead of the Rules: For over 31 years, we have provided chef-driven professional food service for schools that includes made-from-scratch items, seasonal farm-to-table ingredients and menus that combine healthy eating with kid-palate pleasers. Food4Life® keeps our food service programs on the cutting edge of nutrition trends and we were the first in our industry to remove trans fats from menu items in 2007. We offer fruit and vegetable salad bars and “Harvest of the Month,” which educates students about a different seasonal fruit, vegetable, grain and legume. Taher Chef Council and Wellness department develops recipes and researches new products that help support a healthy lifestyle. Taste-testing programs and lunchroom chefs gradually introduce healthy foods that the students enjoy, such as cumin-seasoned Lentil Salad and Popeye Baby Spinach Salad. Other favorites include: Asian Chicken Salad, Italian Stromboli, Chicken Quesadillas and Southwest Squash Bake that incorporates familiar flavors with a bit of heat tossed with roasted squash, peppers and onions. Menus this season include re-formulated favorites like whole-grain pizza and Mexican dishes. Sodium levels are also reduced, which is part of a phased in-requirement by the USDA.
For more information on the new USDA school nutrition regulations (Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act) click here.