School Lunches Get a Makeover

TFK Kid Reporters speak out about the USDA's new school lunch rules

February 02, 2012

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced new standards for school lunches. School meals will now feature more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The new standards also set a calorie limit on meals, cut back sodium and require milk to be low-fat or nonfat. But will the rules actually change what kids eat? We asked our Kid Reporters what they think of the new rules and how they believe the rules will impact their eating habits. Read on to see a few of their responses:


It seems my French fries are going to look a little different on my school lunch tray. That’s because they will soon be sweet-potato fries, under the USDA’s new standards for school lunches. As a student in Hillsborough County Schools, in Tampa, Florida, I have already seen my district take a step in the right direction. Many of the items we are served are made from whole grains, and we have fruits and vegetables to choose from. I pack my lunch approximately three days a week and buy my lunch two days. I think the new standards will encourage the district and the students to make better choices at lunchtime. I think that after time, I will get used to the new choices. What I like about the new standards is that I am given a choice of different vegetables and fruit. Right now, there is no choice. They usually serve one kind of each. I do not think I will even notice a difference in the low-fat mayonnaise or dressing.

Having baby carrots instead of chips might be easy for me, but I worry that other students may not be as eager to see the changes as I am. I hope that after a while, students will enjoy the new choices and realize that these standards were developed to keep them healthy.

—By Audrey Hill, Lithia, Florida


I don’t really think these new lunch rules will affect me that much. Fortunately, I am healthy and can eat almost anything in proper portions. Some of my friends are not so lucky. I currently bring my lunch to school most days, so I have control of what I am eating. Since I go to private school, I have a longer day. Sometimes, I’ll buy something at the cafeteria at my school. It offers salads, but most of the food is not that healthy. When I want to buy a snack, there are a few healthy options, but the fattening foods often tempt me. I think these new rules will encourage kids to start eating healthier. If my school offers healthier food, I might buy it more often, but I truly like my mom’s homemade lunches better than anything the school can offer!

—By Aviva Landau, Dix Hills, NY


Many of the USDA changes to the school lunch menu could have a positive impact on kids’ health. I buy my lunch occasionally, but bring it most often. The new rules won’t affect me very much, because my school district, Novato Unified, currently serves healthy food. They offer salad as a second meal choice, along with organic fruits and vegetables as sides. Every day kids can choose either 1% or 2% milk.

I would definitely agree that it’s important to lower sodium. Your body gets enough salt naturally from fruits and vegetables. Fat should be limited too. Most kids are getting more than they need. I agree that pizza should be made with whole-wheat crust and that salad should be offered, but I disagree that pizza should be replaced by salad. Kids need to eat in order to learn. If they don’t like whatever is served, they’ll go hungry. Some changes make sense, but some don’t seem necessary. 

—By Elise Jonas-Delson, Novato, California


I think these new rules will help me and other kids to start making healthier choices.

I always buy lunch at school if it’s available. I have to bring lunch to school on Tuesdays and Wednesdays when there is no hot lunch. I already see changes being made. My school is offering more salad choices and soup options instead of foods high in fat, such as mozzarella sticks.

I think the new rules will improve kids’ health and encourage kids to eat low-fat foods, even
at home. I will continue buying the new lunches because I think it will be good for my health, although it might not taste as good as the previous lunch options. On the other hand, I think kids should get more freedom to make their own choices, and that it’s okay to have some foods like ice cream once in a while. Also, I think it will be hard for many kids to say goodbye to their favorite foods. But overall, I think it’s a good idea to set the new standards.

—By Linda Tong, Pine Brook, New Jersey


I am excited for the new changes in the lunch menus in schools around the country. My school serves pretty healthy lunches, though I dislike some of their food options. However, my school has been doing a good job to promote good nutrition by having a health teacher come in for eight weeks and teach us about good food choices. The teacher emphasized whole grains, and fresh fruits and veggies. She also helped us make recipes like peach cobbler, fruit smoothies and biscuits.

I buy lunch at school about two days a week, if I like the meal they are going to serve. I think these new lunch rules will affect me in a good way. They will help me, my classmates and all the other kids in America become healthier and food-smart kids, and they will help stop obesity. I am excited to eat the new lunches. It is going to be great having a healthier menu to choose from.

—By Rachel Ayres, Montesano, Washington


Now that lunch menus are changing, I’m starting to pay more attention to what I’m eating at school. Before, my friends and I would always complain about how school lunches were unhealthy and didn’t taste that good. Now, because of the new standards for school lunches, I think my opinion about school lunches will change. These new standards may cause me to buy school lunch more often. The menu looks more appetizing and a lot healthier. I usually bring lunch to school, but I buy lunch too. Right now, we are given healthy options such as fresh vegetables and fruits and whole-wheat sandwiches, but we are also given the options of French fries, pizza and burritos. Of course, those options are often chosen over the healthy ones. However, with these new standards, students will eat healthier, which is important. I will probably buy lunch from school more often now that the menu has changed.

—By Saniya Soni, San Jose, California


I think the new lunch menus will have a positive impact. Healthy, fresh ingredients will help with the focus of students in the classroom and improve overall performance in class and out. The food being served at school could motivate students to make better food choices in their daily lives. My school has some healthy options, but they could more fully embrace healthy food.

Currently, I eat school-served lunches, and I think the changes will be for the better. I will enjoy the new food options, and I’m eager to see what will be served next.

—By Tavian Moore, Grand Rapids, Michigan



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