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USDA Announces New Guidelines to Improve School Nutrition

The days of mystery meat sandwiches should soon
be over, and replaced by healthier options throughout our nation’s school lunch
program. This past Wednesday, January 25, the USDA, in partnership with First
Lady Michelle Obama, announced new guidelines for healthier school meal
programs.  This announcement came in
coordination with the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, signed in December 2010 by
President Obama. According to the USDA press release, the new guidelines will
increase offerings of fruits and vegetables in every meal, add more foods
containing whole grains, offer only fat-free or low-fat milk varieties, and
take more consideration of portion size and amounts of fat and sodium in meals.
These are the first standards ever imposed to limit sodium, trans fat and whole
grains. The new guidelines will be introduced to schools as early as next
school year, and will have a three-year period to be entirely accepted.

These guidelines are a huge victory for
nutritionists concerned with today’s diet and the growing number of overweight
and obese children. However, some experts argue that they are simply not strong
enough to combat current health disparities. Obesity and diabetes in children
lead to many health problems later in life and are causing scientists to
predict that this may be the first generation to live shorter lives than their
parents. Doctors with the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible
Medicine think stricter guidelines, restricting meat and dairy, are necessary
to combat childhood obesity. Yet, proponents are satisfied with the guidelines
and argue that eliminating meat and dairy altogether may be too drastic and
unrealistic to enforce. Most agree that the guidelines will make school meals
healthier than ever before. They also give credit back to the Federal
government, after Congress’s infamous decision in November to continue to count
the tomato sauce of pizza as a vegetable serving. Despite the politics
associated with changing school meal programs, the future is optimistic for
better nutrition for children across the nation.

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