The government setting nutrition standards can be a dicey business. With the corporate dollars flowing from the beef industry, fast food companies, and other nefarious institutions, it’s hard to know whether or not legislators can truly provide information based on health instead of lobbying money.

But unless produce farmers have seen a sudden surge in cash, it looks like there may be some actual science and good sense behind the recently announced federal nutrition standards. Under the U.S.D.A.’s new rules, schools will serve less sodium and more fruit and vegetables.  Fourth graders will receive smaller portions than eighth graders, and trans fat will no longer be on the menu.  Instead, schools will feature offerings like oven-roasted chicken with a pineapple and orange Montego Bay Sauce (Miami), Baja Fish Tacos with brown rice and broccoli slaw (Alexandria, Virginia), and orange chicken with almonds, brown rice, and stir-fried Asian veggies (Shawnee, Oklahoma).  Another exciting part of the U.S.D.A. plan is a push for schools to work with local farmers.

The new standards are coming at a critical time: the number of students depending on free or discount meals through the National School Lunch Program hit 31 million in 2011.

“For too many of America’s school children, school lunch is the only balanced meal they will receive all day,” said Sandra Ford, president of the School Nutrition Association, which represents 55,000 nutrition professionals in the U.S. “School foodservice professionals are working hard to provide students with the healthiest meals to help them succeed in the classroom and beyond.”

So far middle schoolers are providing the most resistance to the changes, but in my personal and entirely unqualified opinion, my guess is that the rejection is more a result of the basic adolescent need to rebel than anything else.  Give ‘em a couple years and they’ll be chowing down on the beef barley stew (Highline, Washington) and chilled watermelon (Provo, Utah) with the rest of the kids.

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