With back-to-school sales in full swing, let’s take a look at how the latest school nutrition guidelines are faring. In 2014, U.S.D.A. adjusted the grain standards requiring 100% of all grains served in K-12 public schools be whole grain-rich. However, School Nutrition Association surveys suggested that schools of all sizes and income levels were struggling with reformulating grain products, resulting in higher costs, lower participation and greater plate waste. Some schools encountered limited availability of specialty whole grain items, especially small or rural school districts.
Sodium might be a bigger issue, according to a report in the July issue of Baking & Snack magazine. As standards become more stringent, sodium becomes a concern for stakeholders.
“Target 1 and 2 sodium standards will not directly affect the bread business at 2,300 mg per day,” said JR Paterakis, vice-president, sales and marketing, H&S Bakery, Inc., Baltimore. “If additional sodium reductions are implemented, however, schools would have a difficult time meeting targets when serving healthy foods with naturally occurring sodium, including milk, cheese and meat.”There is a significant amount of naturally occurring sodium in many healthy foods, and this sodium is being counted as part of the total sodium content calculation for school meals. Schools will not likely be able to serve healthy choices like low-fat, whole grain cheese pizza or many ethnic dishes and sandwiches due to the difficulty. Fortunately, Congress introduced legislation that might add some much-needed flexibility to school meal programs. It would be a rare, constructive step for our nation’s capital.