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New school food coming

No more mystery meat.

School lunches, long saddled with an unhealthy reputation, are getting a makeover.

Instead of salt-doused fried foods, highly processed white bread and sugar-laden desserts, cafeteria trays will be carrying whole wheat pizza, leafy green and orange vegetables and fresh fruit.

The changes, announced Wednesday by first lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, mark the first major nutritional adjustment to the $11 billion school meal program in 15 years.

Under the new guidelines, which were directed by the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, schools must limit calories, trans fat and sodium, while serving students a wider variety of fruit, vegetables and whole grains.

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The new rules, which will affect 32 million children, will be phased in over the next three years.

Many Houston-area school districts have already taken steps to raise nutritional standards, instituting changes that mirror many of the new USDA requirements.

In Houston ISD, for example, all milk is fat-free or low-fat, and more than half of grains served are whole grain, including pasta, sliced bread, homemade rolls, pizza crust and brownies.

Meals contain no trans fat, and dark green and orange vegetables are served three times a week, said district spokesman Jason Spencer.

Clear Creek, Spring and Alief are among the other local school districts that have also made the switch to all whole-grain items, fat-free or low-fat milk and more dark green and orange vegetables.

Olivia has been asking to get the school lunch more often as of late. I think that’s more because it’s what her friends do than anything else, but that’s okay. I suspect she won’t have any problems with the change, but as The Lunch Tray wrote last month, there can be quite a few bumps in the road in getting better food to school kids. Don’t be surprised if there are problems here and there. If you don’t mind a little profanity, there’s an interesting perspective on the issue of better-quality food and why it isn’t always embraced here. This is a process, one that will likely take some time to show results. Here’s more from The Lunch Tray and Obamafoodorama, and The Spork Report has some related food news from HISD.

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