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NYC School Lunch Menu Changes Cut Obesity Rate
September 11, 2012

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The city of New York was ahead of the game with its redesign of school lunch menus a few years ago, and the result has been a drop in the obesity rate.

Among the changes that school officials made were introducing nonfat milk, salad options, whole grain pasta, and baked potato strips. these replaced, among other things, whole milk and deep-fried french fries. The result was a lower rate of childhood obesity, along with a drop in the number of calories that schoolchildren consumed at lunch. And that's where the problem was, according to school officials.

A new report has found that the number of calories that New York City schoolchildren had been consuming at lunch was lower than U.S. Department of Agriculture requirements. Even though the food was healthier, it didn't amount to the USDA minimum calorie count.

The number of New York City school lunches numbers more than 850,000 each day, so the changes and their results have been viewed as quite significant. Among other changes were the elimination of all deep-fried foods and banning of soda from school vending machines.

And now that new federal standards have been released, the New York program has been found to be on the right track, mostly.

New rules require school lunches for students in grades up to 5th to have no more than 550 calories. That maximum goes up to 600 for middle school students and 750 for high school students. That is a departure from previous guidelines, which did not have maximums.

Some officials say that the New York City menus still place students on the low side of the calorie scale, especially since salad doesn't count as calories toward the minimum, which is 100 calories less than the maximum for each level of school. New York City school officials counter that salad bars, introduced in 2005, have proven quite popular with students and go a long way toward encouraging them to fill their plates with vegetables, in line with the MyPlate initiative. And the city says that the obesity rate in New York City schools has dropped 5.5 percent during the past five years.

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