It wasn’t that long ago that requiring 51% of all grains served at schools be whole grains would have caused panic in baking. Still, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture last week affirmed this requirement by 2012-13 for lunches and 2013-14 for breakfast, no industry backlash was evident.
Grain-based foods has plenty of reasons for misgivings about the new requirements. While no one disputes the healthfulness of whole grains (here we’ll ignore “Wheat Belly” author William Davis), many question whether the benefit of a switch from enriched grains is as great as claimed by whole grain advocates or whether it is worth the added expense and risk of rejection by the many children who prefer grain-based foods made from enriched grains. After all, whole wheat still accounts for only 5% of U.S. flour production, and it’s clear children aren’t the largest consumers.
It is to the great credit of grain-based foods companies that this risk of rejection by students appears to be far smaller than it was just a few years ago. Not only have millers and bakers worked together to develop highly successful transitional products, some with a mix of whole grains and enriched grains, but companies have worked to develop new-age whole grain products specifically targeting school lunches. With change comes risk. Glitches are likely ahead, but grain-based foods has done its homework to minimize the turmoil that may result from the new government rules.