Serving Healthy School Meals: Despite Challenges, Schools Meet USDA Meal Requirements

Sep 30, 2013

Quick Summary:

As school food authorities work to implement the USDA's new meal standards, they may face challenges, including limitations in existing kitchen equipment and infrastructure, and in the training and skills of food service staff. This is the first of a series of reports summarizing how schools are putting in place the USDA standards and what challenges they face before they can reach full implementation.

Key Findings:

This report presents findings about the challenges districts face in implementing the updated meal standards,when they expect to be able to meet the standards, and how they are finding solutions to meet the standards. Below are our key findings.

Finding 1: Ninety-four percent of school food authorities expected to be able to meet the new lunch requirements by the end of SY 2012-13, which was the year that the new requirements first went into effect. Sixty-three percent anticipated meeting the new standards by the start of SY 2012-13.

Finding 2: Although the vast majority of school food authorities intended to meet the updated standards by the end of the school year, most—91 percent—also indicated that they faced one or more challenges to reaching full implementation. These included, for example, the lack of adequate equipment or training and issues with food costs and availability.

Finding 3: Most school food authorities with inadequate equipment reported “making do” with some type of less efficient process, or workaround, which in turn was widely considered to be inadequate, expensive, inefficient, and/or unsustainable.A sizable majority of school food authorities reported facing challenges while implementing the updated school meal standards. This report will outline the topmost considerations of SFAs as they work to provide healthier foods to the students they serve.

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