Healthier U.S. school meals boost costs: study
Improving nutritional value of U.S. school food programs by increasing servings of fruits, vegetables and whole grains could increase the cost of breakfast by as much as 25 percent and lunch by 9 percent, according to a report released on Tuesday.
A report from the Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Academies, proposed updating school meal programs to meet nutritional needs and foster better eating habits, but recognized healthier, fresher ingredients would boost costs, especially at breakfast where fruit servings would increase.
“It will cost a little more,” Virginia Stallings, a professor at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and chair of the group that conducted the study, said in an interview.
“But this will be a very wise investment in children’s health,” she added.
Most school food providers would need more government money to help pay for food, training and equipment, the report said.
The Institute of Medicine conducted the review of the country’s school breakfast and lunch programs at the request of the U.S. Agriculture Department, which oversees them. School meal programs provide 40 million meals daily and more than half of students’ food and nutrient intake during the school day.
Child nutrition programs, which cost about $21 billion a year, are due for reauthorization this year but Congress is not expected to approve an overhaul for some time.
Officials at the USDA are updating the nutrition and meal requirements used for school breakfast and lunch programs, and looked for recommendations from the Institute of Medicine. The framework, last updated in 1995, sets food and nutrient standards that must be met by school programs to qualify for cash reimbursements and food from the government.
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