Waivers for certain nutritional requirements are available if schools find that students aren’t eating what’s offered.
An insight into federal standards:
- Lunch meals must have less than 1230mg of sodium (that’s an awful lot of salt)
- Breakfast and lunch must include at least ½ cup of fresh fruit or vegetables
- No trans fats allowed
- No more than 10% of calories from saturated fat
- Flavored milk must be fat free (what about the sugar?!) (5)
Similar guidelines are applied to what’s sold in vending machines; of note is the sugar requirement of 35% or less by weight per item (that’s a lot of sugar!). High schools can also offer caffeinated and soft drinks. (6)
The USDA’s nutritional guidelines were developed in part by research into expected outcomes of food choices in schools, both meals served in cafeterias and snack foods otherwise available.
It’s openly recognized that children’s health is at stake, with rates of childhood obesity, diabetes, and other serious illness on the rise due to what they’re eating.
Since some students eat more than half of their daily intake at school, making sure that school food is nutritious is critical. The 2010 Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act was passed with that goal. (7)
Based on the above, the nutrition bar was set low. Still, it’s a step in the right direction.
Parents wanting to avoid having their children eat institutional school lunches by sending a homemade lunch have met with resistance in some jurisdictions. TCK is therefore a huge win for American children.