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School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children
journey to improving the diets of a vulnerable and important population group, our children.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requested that the Institute of Medicine (IOM) provide recommendations to revise the nutrition- and food-related standards and requirements for the NSLP and the SBP. This request relates to the congressional requirement that USDA issue new guidance and regulations for the Nutrition Standards and Meal Requirements of the school meal programs.
In particular, the committee was asked to review and assess the food and nutritional needs of school-aged children in the United States using the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the IOM’s Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) and to use that review as a basis for recommended revisions to the NSLP and SBP Nutrition Standards and Meal Requirements. The goal was the development of a set of well-conceived, practical, and economical recommendations for standards that reflect current nutritional science, increase the availability of key food groups as appropriate, and allow these two meal programs to better meet the nutritional needs of children, foster healthy eating habits, and safeguard children’s health. Both a Phase I report and a final report were to be prepared.
Figure S-1 depicts the current relationships among major elements of the task, focusing on the Nutrition Standards and Meal Requirements. The figure uses a number of the terms that are specific to school meal programs and depicts the two existing approaches to menu planning, one that relies on a food-based approach and one that relies on a nutrient-based approach.
In the course of its work, the committee made recommendations that require a change in terminology and a revised approach to menu planning that leads to a less complex set of elements for the planning of school meals (see Figure S-2, and compare it with Figure S-1). In particular, the committee provides recommendations for (1) Nutrient Targets rather than Nutrition Standards and (2) only one method of menu planning rather than several. It uses the phrase as selected by the student rather than as served to provide clarity. The recommended Nutrient Targets provide the foundation for setting revised Meal Requirements. The recommended Meal Requirements encompass meal patterns and other specifications for menu planning (the standards for menu planning) and specifications for the number and types of food that the student must select for a reimbursable meal (the standards for meals as selected by the student).