Earlier today First Lady Michelle Obama joined U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at Parklawn Elementary School in Alexandria, Va., to announce the first major changes to the school lunch program in 15 years.  These changes come about as a result of the passage of the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010,” a significant piece of legislation that our industry supported.  In fact, we worked with members of Congress and a broad coalition of public health and education groups and others in the food and beverage industry to re-authorize the Child Nutrition Act.

The new school nutrition standards place restrictions on calories and will increase offerings of fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, while reducing saturated fat, trans fats and sodium.  While the changes will affect meals served to millions of children in school cafeterias across America only, we know that standards for competitive foods sold in schools are forthcoming as well.  This will include foods and beverages sold in vending machines.

If you’ve been a long-time reader of Sip & Savor, then you know that the health of our nation's young people is something our industry is committed to and providing them nutritious food and beverage options in schools is something we all support. To that end, in early 2010 we announced that we had successfully implemented national School Beverage Guidelines that removed full-calorie soft drinks from all schools and replaced them with more low-calorie, smaller-portion options.  The result:  a dramatic 88 percent reduction in beverage calories shipped to schools.  In fact, the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010” points to our national School Beverage Guidelines as a set of guidelines to be considered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as it drafts new rules.   After all, the School Beverage Guidelines strike the right balance, are supported by parents and are a national standard already in place and working.