Finally, USDA Issues New Rules on Competitive Foods in Schools

Vending machines in schools?

Ever since the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act passed in 2010, we’ve been waiting to see what USDA will do about vending machines in schools. Now, finally, the agency has proposed new regulations on these foods, and the regulations aim to make the contents healthier.

Even though the vending machines might be in school cafeterias, the food is considered to be “outside of” the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), and is therefore called “competitive food.” Competitive foods encompass any food sold in vending machines, school stores or a la carte in the cafeteria that is not part of the NSLP. The new regulations can be found here, and are open to public comment for the next 60 days.

As part of the same Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, the USDA issued regulations for the NSLP, and they are being implemented Read More >

Better Beef, It’s What’s For Lunch? Kids in Four of the Nation’s Largest School Districts Are Served Sustainably Produced Meats

It looks like the “Eat less meat, eat better meat” motto, first coined by sustainable cattle rancher and author Nicolette Hahn Niman, is catching on. According to School Food FOCUS, a national initiative dedicated to helping urban school districts buy healthier, more sustainable and locally sourced food, four of the nation’s largest school districts launched their own “Better Beef Days.”

According to a School Food FOCUS spokesperson, Meredith Modzelewski, Denver Public Schools, Portland Public Schools, Oakland Unified School District and San Diego Unified School District, decided to serve sustainably raised beef to students this week to coincide with National School Lunch Week.

Modzelewski says the food service directors for each of the districts came up with idea on their own following a School Food FOCUS brainstorming session organized to help schools find ways to purchase healthier poultry and bread products.

“It all started with school food service directors who wanted to talk with producers of grass-fed beef,” says Modzelewski.  “This was really a grassroots effort,” added Modzelewski. [no pun intended] While not every district was able to source grass-fed beef, all the “better” meat purchased – ranges from local and grass-fed to antibiotic-free, added hormone-free and preservative-free.

I’m particularly excited to see that the Oakland School District, which adopted its own Meatless Monday campaign this year, is also taking part in the “Better Beef Days.” Some may think these initiatives send mixed messages to kids. I disagree. In fact, (I can’t believe I’m saying this), even the National Pork Board noted in a Chicago Times article last month that Meatless Monday serves as, “a message of moderation and quality.” Read More >

Protein 101: Dispelling the Myth Surrounding Meatless Meals

It is disappointing to see members of the media spread misinformation due to their own ignorance, gullibility, or, worse, disinterest in digging for the truth — especially when it has to do with the health of children. Case in point, a reporter from a South Dakota talk radio show apparently believes that Baltimore City Public Schools’ Meatless Monday meals are lacking in protein. Last Friday, Tom Riter asked U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack a rather leading question (notice how many times he said “bother”) during a USDA news conference to preview the Obama administration’s priorities for the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization:

“Mr. Secretary, I was wondering if it bothered you… that… you were talking about the importance of the nutrition for the school children… and I was wondering if it bothered you that school districts like Baltimore, Maryland institute Meatless Mondays… not letting the children have protein in the diet by doing that. Does that bother you?”

Seriously? He thinks Baltimore City Schools are denying kids their recommended daily allowance of protein? I hate to break it to you Mr. Riter, but meat isn’t the only food that contains protein. Read More >