New USDA guidelines call for more healthful school lunch programs

New USDA guidelines call for more healthful school lunch programs

Posted on Feb 7, 2012 Read Full Article

After 15 years, the USDA has rewritten the rules for what must -- and can''t -- be served as part of the federally subsidized school lunch program. Whole grains, once encouraged, will be required. Beans and peas, as well as dark greens and red vegetables, will become staples.

Come July 1, chocolate milk will go the way of the deep fat fryer.

But some Bay Area school districts, propelled by a growing healthful food movement and concerns about childhood obesity, plan to go beyond the new guidelines. Oakland''s nutrition services director is proposing upgrades to dozens of kitchens and the development of a 44,000-square-foot central facility -- with a 1.5-acre organic farm outside. Richmond High School soon might have a salad bar stocked with produce harvested by students in the garden outside.

Soon, some Hayward schoolchildren might come face to face with "a sushi robot" that specializes in California rolls.

"When we talk about educating our children for life in the 21st century, we have to look at all aspects of what that means," said Rami Muth, superintendent of the Martinez school district, which plans to create an organic gardening and cooking class for junior high school students. "We have to look at helping young people develop patterns in their lives that will support a healthy lifestyle."

More than 70 percent of schoolchildren in Oakland qualify for federally subsidized meals, and many rely on those meals for a large part of their daily sustenance. That number rose, locally and statewide, after the economic downturn.