WASHINGTON — Citing U.S. Department of Agriculture data showing 95% of schools complying with the updated meal standards from the 2010 Health Hunger-Free Kids Act, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said the requirements are “being widely embraced by students, parents, educators, and nutrition professionals.” The data from the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S.D.A. indicated 95% of 19,721 U.S. School Food Authorities were certified as in compliance at the end of 2014. Only eight states were less than 90% in compliance — Arizona (85.4%), Connecticut (88.1%), Indiana (89.8%), Louisiana (74.7%), Massachusetts (89.1%), New Mexico (78.1%), Pennsylvania (83%) and Wisconsin (84%).
Countering critics of the program, Mr. Vilsack cited studies indicating that with the new standards, more students are choosing to add fruit to their lunch tray, are consuming more fruit and vegetables and that plate waste in schools has not increased.
“We are working with schools to provide funding, training, and flexibility so that 100% of schools will be able to successfully serve children healthier meals,” Mr. Vilsack said. “Now that we are so close to the finish line, it would be unwise to roll back healthy meal standards just as they are beginning to work to ensure our kids have access to the balanced, nutritious food doctors recommend.”
The U.S.D.A. said support for the program is not limited to so-called blue states.
“Most parents in Kansas support healthier school lunches, and 95% felt nutritious meals were so important in helping students learn that public schools should be required to serve a fruit or vegetable with each meal,” the U.S.D.A. said, citing the Topeka Capital-Journal.