USDA Imposes New Requirements for School Cafeteria Food

Pittsylvania Co., VA - This year your children may notice some changes to their school lunches. The USDA has now placed a required limit on the amount of sodium in cafeteria food, and all bread products must be whole grain.The changes come through an expansion of a program started last year thanks in part to First Lady Michelle Obama.Pittsylvania County Schools Dietitian Kara Scott says good nutrition has always been their focus, but the USDA has taken it a step further.

"When they pick up a tray, they have to put a food or vegetable on their tray, " Scott said, but getting those vegetables from the tray into the students' mouths actually starts at home.

"The children that are reinforced at home to make healthy choices, they tend to choose the healthy options at school too, " Scott said.

For Cafeteria Manager Barbara Neal, the new requirements have been an eye opener.

"I've learned more since the government has put this in than what I knew when my children were little, " Neal said.

One problem area the USDA is cracking down on is sodium.

"Sodium has been linked to high blood pressure and high blood pressure has been linked to heart disease, " Scott said.

Higher costs may be standing in the way for some parents. Scott says the school system has to pay more for whole grains and additional food options - leading to increased lunch prices, but she says it's a small price to pay for the long term health benefits.

"You kind of build your foundation as a child and then that creates a healthy body so you can grow into a healthy adult, " Scott said.

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