New USDA Guidelines

SomersetFollowing the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, in 2012 the U.S. Department of Agriculture made the first major changes in school meals in 15 years, which will help raise a healthier generation of children. 

The new standards align school meals with the latest nutrition science and the real world circumstances of America’s schools. These responsible reforms do what’s right for children’s health in a way that’s achievable in schools across the Nation. 

In the fall of 2012, USDA's new nutrition guidelines for school lunches took effect. In addition to previous total fat, trans fat, and saturated fat restrictions, the new guidelines included updated calorie ranges, gradual sodium restrictions, and new meal pattern requirements. Starting in fall 2013, breakfast menus will also see similar changes. To see the specific requirements for school meals, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service website

Elementary and secondary menus in School District 197 operate on a four-week rotating cycle. The weekly cycle of alternate entree choice will consist of a deli sandwich in the elementary schools. Middle and high school menus will continue to offer a wide variety of daily meal choices in addition to the featured cycle. Students with larger appetites are welcome to purchase additional entrées and other healthy à la carte items in addition to the regular student meal. Students are encouraged to come back for addtional servings of fruits and vegetables, at no charge, once they have finished the food on their tray. All District 197 elementary, middle and high schools feature a salad bar with daily fruit, vegetable and protein options. View menus

Offer versus serve is a type of meal service that allows students to decline food components for lunch or food items for breakfast. With traditional meal service, the student must take all of the food components or food items offered. 

LUNCH: Schools are required to serve a fruit, vegetable, grain, protein, and a milk. Of these options, students must choose at least 3 items or all 5. However, students must choose a fruit or vegetable as one of their 3 items. 

BREAKFAST: Schools are required to serve a fruit, milk, a grain, and an "other" (either a grain or a protein). Students must choose 3 of the 4 options, one of which being a fruit.

Source: The Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project

  • Nearly one in three children in our country is overweight or obese. With many children consuming up to half their daily calories at school, one of the most important steps we can take to improve their health is to make sure school meals are nutritious.
  • Under updated school meal nutrition standards starting in 2012-13, children are getting more fruits, vegetables and whole grains on their cafeteria trays. Meals will also include more low-fat and non-fat dairy products and less fat and sodium.
  • These improved guidelines also make sure that schools' meals are health and "right-sized" for kids based on their age, so they're not being served excessive amounts of empty calories.
  • Before the update, high schools were offering an average of 857 calories to students at lunch. The new limit of 850 calories per meal means that most high school students are getting the same amount of calories at lunch as last year--they are just getting them from healthier foods.
  • Improved guidelines also help parents know that schools are offering healthy foods. They provide a baseline to ensure that meals served in schools all across the nation are nutritious. Specific decisions, including what's on the menu, what recipes are used, how often foods are served and how meals are presented, still are decided at the local level.