Official: Mississippi ready for school nutrition standards

Speaking at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing, the state's child nutrition director for the department of education says the state is well prepared to meet new—and old—USDA guidelines.

WASHINGTON—Mississippi is well prepared to meet new federal nutrition regulations regarding school lunches, a state education department official said Wednesday.

Mississippi’s Statewide Purchasing Cooperative helped the state negotiate lower prices for nutritious foods, avoiding the struggle other states have gone through serving meals that meet new federal standards, Scott Clements, child nutrition director for the Mississippi Department of Education, told members of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee.

“We’ve been very fortunate in Mississippi,” Clements said. “We have a legislature and state board of education (that) are both very cognizant of the challenges we have with nutrition in particular.”

The new regulations were created under the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which established stringent and potentially costly nutrition standards for school lunches and set quotas on serving sizes of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and other food groups.

School systems around the country have struggled to meet the regulations while grappling with reduced revenue from declining participation in school lunch programs.

In the 2012-13 school year, 47 percent of school meal programs lost money and 90 percent reported higher food costs, according to the 2013 Back to School Trends Survey.

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