School Meals for 2012-13 Emphasize Health and Flavor

September 18, 2012

CHICAGO—As kids return to school this fall they’ll start to see the positive changes that stem from a provision in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. In the September 2012 issue of Food Technology magazine, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), Associate Editor Karen Nachay writes about the changes taking place in school cafeterias across the country.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, sets standards for the National School Lunch Program and National School Breakfast Program that increases funding and training to schools to provide healthier meals to students. This update has been 15 years in the making, and will affect 32 million students who participate in the school lunch program, and almost 13 million who participate in the breakfast program (USDA, 2012a; USDA, 2012b). These new guidelines were developed based on the requirements of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines and recommendations from scientific experts in order to improve health and diet of children and reduce the number of overweight and obese kids.

According to a panel at the Wellness 12 Conference, adding fruits and veggies, more whole grains, and less sugar-sweetened beverages to school menus sounds easier than it looks; if a product isn’t flavorful and tasty, kids won’t eat it. Just because kids are putting these foods on their trays, doesn’t mean they are actually eating them.

The new requirement presents a number of opportunities for manufacturers of ingredients like sodium-mineral blends, alternative sweeteners, low-saturated oils, and whole-grain flours that help kids intake more fiber and whole grains, and less sodium and sugar. Healthy prototypes like chicken quesadillas and mini burgers are among the kid-friendly foods that were on display at the 2012 IFT Annual Meeting and Food Expo in Las Vegas.


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