Iowa students may be seeing some new foods in the cafeteria this year as most schools have new federal government nutrition guidelines to follow. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, says calorie counts and more fruits and vegetables are all part of the plan.
“Over time, a reduction of the sodium content of meals being served to youngsters,” Vilsack says. “For the first time, we’ll establish maximum levels of calories in addition to the minimum level of calories that are currently established under the standards. We’ll also encourage far more consumption of fruits and vegetables by encouraging at least one additional cup of vegetables being made available on a daily basis and increasing significantly the amount of fruit that’s available.”
The new guidelines are intended to provide healthier options and to reduce childhood obesity. Vilsack says the requirements go beyond the additional fruits and veggies.
“Suggesting that up to 50% of the grains served would be whole grain and also reducing the fat in the milk content by going to a skim milk or a lowfat milk,” he says. Besides cutting the salt, school cafeterias also have to reduce the amount of fats used in meal preparation.
Vilsack says this is the largest change to the school lunch program in 15 years. A report out last week on obesity in America found 29% of all Iowa adults are severely overweight. That’s up from 22% of Iowans being obese a little over a decade ago.
The new study ranked Iowa the 18th-healthiest state. Colorado was the best, Mississippi the worst.