USDA updates media on school nutrition

Aug. 16—During a conference call with media yesterday, USDA Under Secretary Kevin Concannon said the department was working hard to have the final rule for the updated nutrition standards, as specified under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, finalized by the end of the year. Concannon said more than 132,000 comments had been received about the act. The USDA finished reviewing those comments last month.

“We are reviewing [the rule] right now,” he said. “Most of the comments were quite positive, but we are also mindful that there are a number of significant changes in [the bill], so we want to make sure that it is achievable.”

One area in the bill that Concannon said the department was looking at was the language of offer versus serve for the increased amount of fruits and vegetables that are now required.

Concannon also added that the department hopes to have the proposed standards for competitive foods released before the calendar year.

Also on the call was Becky Bounds, child nutrition director for the Lamar County School District in Mississippi. Lamar County is the first district in the nation to achieve a Gold with Distinction award in the HealthierUS School Challenge for a high school.

Bounds said she has already made many of the proposed requirements in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. “It is a time when we are making many changes, but they are changes that need to be made,” Bounds said about the child nutrition environment. “We are not part of the program. We are part of the fix. It does take revitalizing your menus and educating your staff and knowing why we’re doing what we’re doing,” to achieve these changes.