Back-To-School Lunch: Students To See Healthier Fare This Fall

An Obama Administration act will phase in some school meal changes this year and next.

Some School Lunches that Follow New U.S. Standards

USDA photo by Lance Cheung

Is that a whole-wheat pancake on your tray? When U.S. kids head back to school this fall, they'll see some changes to their school breakfasts, lunches and snacks, Time reports. A few pieces of legislation, signed a few years ago but only now coming into effect, will bring school meals better in line with national nutrition recommendations.

The changes come after studies found that better school lunches help kids maintain a healthy weight.

Time has the details, but here are some highlights:

  • Starting in the 2013-2014 school year, kids eating breakfast at school must have access to low-fat milk. In addition, half of the grains in their breakfasts must be whole grains. In 2014-2015, the meal must be 100 percent whole grain. (Hello, oatmeal! Goodbye, Cap'n Crunch!)
  • Schools have more flexibility with lunch portions this year, after students complained last year that new portion-control rules didn't give them enough food.
  • Laws governing snacks sold at schools are set to come into effect for 2014-2015 as well. Snacks will soon have to meet certain upper caps for how many calories and how much fat, sugar and sodium they have. Meanwhile, many schools will try to get ahead by adjusting their snacks this year, Time reports. Some schools need time to adjust because they actually get a lot of revenue from selling students junk food. I'd guess my own high school—which, by the time my little brother was a student, had begun selling kids blended coffee drinks similar to Starbucks' Frappuccinos—could be one of those.

The changes stem from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Lawmakers wrote the act to come into play slowly so that schools could figure out ways to adjust to altered revenue streams and otherwise make the changes they need. You can see documents related to the act and a sample before/after elementary school lunch menu.