USDA Revises School Lunch Rules

January 24, 2014

USDA eases some nutrition requirements, for the better.

By Mark Bishop, Vice President of Policy + Communications

The USDA recently revised its school lunch rules [pdf], essentially easing up some of the nutrition requirements. And guess what? We think it’s a good thing.

The requirements that originated with the passage of the Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010 were based on research from the Institute of Medicine, which we strongly supported. But rules like maximum weekly servings for grains and proteins didn’t work very well when implemented in the lunch room. For instance, as this NPR report explains, “…Some schools could not offer daily sandwich selections because the two slices of bread exceeded weekly grain limits. And in some cases, salads topped with low-fat cheese or other sources of lean protein exceeded protein limits.”

Think about it for a minute. Try planning a menu for your family for the next two weeks. Consider what you, your spouse and two kids want to eat for dinner every night. How much to make, what ingredients to buy, how to keep within your family budget and how to make it healthy. It’s not easy, and chances are you won’t hit every note.

We’re happy to see that the USDA has the capacity to review its own rules and realize it can do better. This isn’t an unusual scenario. Laws get re-written, and regulations evolve over time after they’ve been implemented. We’re looking forward to continued efforts to improve the school lunch program and are happy that the USDA is actively on board.