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  1. Technical assistance for developing and continuously improving menus, ordering appropriate foods (including the writing of specifications), and controlling costs while maintaining quality.

  2. New procedures for monitoring the quality of school meals that (1) focus on meeting relevant Dietary Guidelines and (2) provide information for continuous quality improvement and for mentoring food service workers to assist in performance improvement.

It is essential that USDA collaborate with school food service directors to revise related menu planning guidance materials, including the Food Buying Guide for Child Nutrition Programs. The committee encourages the simplification of procedures for selecting specific foods in amounts that will meet the standards.

The committee suggests that, at least for the next few years, monitoring guidance be directed toward facilitating the transition to the new Meal Requirements. Such guidance would place an emphasis on examining progress in meeting the standards, especially those related to fruits, vegetables, whole grain-rich foods, calories, saturated fat, and sodium; identifying training needs for school food service operators; and providing needed technical assistance to improve the school meals.

Recommendation 5. USDA should work cooperatively with Health and Human Services, the food industry, professional organizations, state agencies, advocacy groups, and parents to develop strategies and incentives to reduce the sodium content of prepared foods and to increase the availability of whole grain-rich products while maintaining acceptable palatability, cost, and safety.

The specification for sodium merits special attention. The committee recognizes that there are barriers to reducing the sodium content of meals to the recommended levels without having long-term adverse effects on student acceptance and participation, safety, practicality, and cost. For this reason, the committee set the year 2020 as the date to achieve full implementation; and it suggests that intermediate targets be set at 2-year intervals and be periodically re-evaluated to promote stepwise reductions in sodium content over the decade beginning in 2010.

Recommendation 6. The Food and Drug Administration should take action to require labeling for the whole grain content of food products.

The lack of such labeling is a major barrier to menu planners who are striving to achieve at least a one-to-one ratio of whole grains to refined grains, as recommended by Dietary Guidelines.

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