President Obama signed the School Nutrition Reauthorization Act, which will add six cents to the production costs of each school lunch. This may sound like chump change, but it actually buys an historically significant upgrade to child nutrition. Think about it. As one example, since whole grains sell for a higher price than refined grains, that extra six cents times the number of meals served at school may mean that kids will eat whole wheat bread (replete with B vitamins, iron and fiber) vs. white bread (of lesser nutritional value) more often. It means that school food service managers can afford to feed kids a bit better each and every day. And that's bound to make a difference over time. Thirty-one million American kids eat school meals every day, with school breakfast and lunch providing 2/3 of their daily nutrition.
The Reauthorization Act will also likely translate into tighter USDA regulations that limit total calories and grams of sodium per meal,but increase the number of fruit and vegetable servings at each meal. It will be up to the USDA to take public and expert input plus evidence-based recommendations from the Institute of Medicine and write a set of doable, but meaningful regulations that make bold changes to school lunch.
This, combined with the recent food safety legislation that is likely to be signed into law, are commendable steps towards helping ensure and/or repair the health of American children. Remember, these are the same kids that we predict as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes and other overweight-related conditions in their lifetimes. It is better nutrition that will help them to avoid this fate.
From my vantage point as a registered dietitian (RD) and nutrition educator, it seems that our legislature is heading in the right direction when it comes to child wellness--at last.