New school lunch standards go into effect - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

New school lunch standards go into effect

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KENNEWICK, Wash. -- The federal government released new nutrition standards for school meals Wednesday.  They include cutting back on salt, limiting calories and offering students a wider variety and larger portions of fruits and vegetables.

These changes will raise the nutrition standards for schools for the first time in more than 15 years.

The Kennewick, Richland and Pasco school districts have already been implementing these changes for many years. Richland says they're about 98 percent compliant with the new standards, and Kennewick says they're 95 percent there. Pasco says they've already implemented whole wheat grains, and salad bars at every school.  Schools must meet the standards by next school year to get federal reimbursements for meals.

"We're excited the federal government is embracing this new regulation because it is consistent with the way we've been heading for a number of years, my concern is that we are reimbursed for these changes that will now be required," says Sam Shick, the Nutrition Services Director for Kennewick Schools.

Schools will be getting six more cents reimbursement for each lunch..but the FDA says the healthy food lunches are expected to cost the schools about 11 cents more per lunch. and the cost of preparing a nutritious breakfast is estimated to increase by 28 cents.

The new standards for school lunch:

•Establish maximum calorie and sodium limits for meals. The sodium limits are phased in over 10 years.

•Require schools to serve a fruit and vegetable every day at lunch and in larger portions than offered before. Portion sizes vary by age group. For instance, high school students will have to be offered one cup of vegetables and one cup of fruit a day. Right now they have to be offered a total of three-quarters cup of fruit and vegetables.

•Require schools to offer a minimum number of leafy green vegetables, red-orange vegetables, starchy vegetables and legumes each week. The amount varies by age group.

•Require that after the two years of implementation, all grains offered to students must be rich in whole grains such as brown rice. Breads, buns, cereals and pastas must list whole grain as the first ingredient.

•Require milk to be either low-fat (1%) or fat-free.  Flavored milk, such as chocolate, must now be fat-free.

•Require that foods that are served contain no trans fats.