WASHINGTON – The Agriculture Department is responding to criticism over new school lunch rules by allowing more grains and meat in kids’ meals.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told members of Congress in a letter Friday that the department will do away with daily and weekly limits of meats and grains. Several lawmakers wrote the department after the new rules went into effect in September, saying kids aren’t getting enough to eat.
School administrators also complained, saying set maximums on grains and meats are too limiting as they try to plan daily meals.
“This flexibility is being provided to allow more time for the development of products that fit within the new standards while granting schools additional weekly menu planning options to help ensure that children receive a wholesome, nutritious meal every day of the week,” Vilsack said in a letter to Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.
The new guidelines were intended to address increasing childhood obesity levels. They set limits on calories and salt, and phase in more whole grains. Schools must offer at least one vegetable or fruit per meal. The department also dictated how much of certain food groups could be served.
Margo Wootan, a nutrition lobbyist for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said the new guidance shows that USDA will work with school nutrition officials and others who have concerns.