This month marked an important step forward for the health and well-being of our nation’s youngsters. USDA announced changes to improve the quality of school lunches that are served to 32 million American children each day. This will help them learn and better prepare them for the jobs of the 21st century.
These new standards – based on the most up-to-date science – will make the same kinds of practical changes that many parents are already encouraging at home:
They’ll make sure students are offered both fruits and vegetables every day of the week – and increase opportunities to eat whole grains. They’ll substantially reduce the amount of saturated fat, trans-fats and salt in meals. And they’ll ensure appropriate portion size, limiting calories based on how old a child is. To drink, kids will be offered fat-free or low-fat milk.
These changes are the result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which passed Congress more than a year ago. It was supported by the Obama administration – and by a broad coalition of parents, teachers, school lunch professionals, doctors, and even retired generals who wanted to make sure that America’s children are healthy enough to be able to serve in our armed forces.
To unveil the changes to school meals, First Lady Michelle Obama and I went to a local elementary school in Virginia and had a chance to eat a meal the meets the new, improved standards. We ate turkey tacos with brown rice and corn salsa. There was a side of fresh fruit. It was all delicious, and the students at my lunch table agreed.
Most importantly, it was the sort of well-balanced meal that our children need to grow up healthy and strong. That means kids can concentrate, learn, and do their best in class. It means they’ll have the skills and education they need to compete in the global economy and win the jobs of today and tomorrow.
A healthy nation with a strong economy built to last depends on the health of our children. And last week we took an important step towards raising a healthier generation of Americans.
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