School Personnel To Be Trained To Meet Diet Guidelines by 1994

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WASHINGTON--The Agriculture Department has set a 1994 deadline by which all school food-service personnel will be trained in methods to improve the nutritional quality of school meals, Secretary of Agriculture Edward R. Madigan announced last week.

"I can assure you that by [fiscal year] 1994 all food-service personnel in the United States will have the tools and the training they need to improve the school-lunch program to meet the dietary guidelines," Mr. Madigan said.

This is the first time the department, which administers the national school-lunch program, has set a deadline for ensuring that school meals meet national dietary g@idelines.

Last year, a joint statement by the U.S.D.A. and the Department of Health and Human Services recommended that all Americans over the age of 2 limit their intake of calories from fat to no more than 30 percent of their diet. However, at the time, the U.s.D.A. said that school-meals programs would not have to comply with these guidelines for at least two years. ('See Education Week, Nov. 14, 1990.)

About 24.5 million school-age children participate in the school lunch program nationwide.

Long-Awaited Guidelines

One way the department will train school food-service personnel, Mr. Madigan said, is by releasing the long-awaited "National Guidance for the Child Nutrition Programs" to all schools next spring.

A draft form of this document, which was open to public comment through Aug. 9, states that "menus designed for children should strive te achieve an average fat content of 30 percent of calories from fat."

Under the 1989 federal bill reauthorizing the school-lunch program, the U.S.D.A. was required to develop this guidance by the end of 1991 and then ensure that it is implemented by schools.

Low-Fat Options

Mr. Madigan's statement came on the same day that a report by Public Voice for Food and Health Policy charged that school lunches get almost 40 percent of their calories from fat. The Washington-based advocacy group, a longtime critic of the school-lunch program, called on the Congress to mandate that school meals derive no more than 30 percent of their calories from fat.

To lower the amount of fat in school meals, the u.S.D.A. said that it would purchase low-fat beef patties and low-fat ground turkey for schools this year. It said it would also distribute new menu guides and training videotapes to schools.

Kevin Dando, a spokesman for the American School Food Service Association, said schools need time to tram their personnel in healthy cooking techniques and to provide proper nutritional education te students.

"If you change the menu overnight, and you don't have proper education [for children], students will leave the program in droves," he said. 'qt's a monumental undertaking and it can't be done overnight." --E.F.

Vol. 11, Issue 03, Page 23

Published in Print: September 18, 1991, as School Personnel To Be Trained To Meet Diet Guidelines by 1994
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