For the first time in 15 years, the federal government is calling for

significant changes in school meals, including limiting the amount of

trans fat, salt and calories in the cafeteria and increasing the produce

and whole grains served. The hope is that the 32 million children who

participate daily in school meal programs will have more healthful foods

to chew on.

The proposed rule, which would raise reimbursements to schools by 6

cents a meal, was released on Thursday, and it is being applauded by

nutrition and children’s outreach groups across the country.

The proposed USDA changes would add more fruits, vegetables, whole

grains, fat-free and low-fat milk to school meals nationwide, while also

mandating limits in levels of saturated fats, sodium, calories and

trans fats.

In a news release, agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack said the country

is facing an “obesity epidemic,” prompting the suggested changes.

Many children consume as many as half their daily calories at school, he said.

Measures such as lowering calories from fat, offering more fruits and

vegetables and eliminating access to foods with no nutritional value

are already in place in Texas and many districts, such as

the AISD, go a step further by offering more fruits and vegetables than

the state requires.

“The United States is facing an obesity epidemic, and the crisis of poor diets threatens

the future of our children and our nation,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

wrote in a news release. “With many children consuming as many as half

their daily calories at school, strengthening nutritional standards is

an important step in the Obama administration’s effort to combat childhood obesity and improve the health and well-being of our kids.”