02/06/12 Plymouth Schools Director of Food Service, Gloria Burnam, is busy reviewing the final ruling handed down on meal patterns and nutrition standards for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs that were aligned with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The final ruling was sent out on January 26.

On January 25, First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and celebrity chef Rachael Ray announced the release of the final rule at an elementary school in Alexandria, Virginia. The ruling is meant to help ensure that students are offered both fruits and vegetables every day of the week; offered a substantially increase of whole grain-rich foods; and offered only fat-free or low-fat milk varieties. Additional requirements are targeted at reducing the levels of sodium, saturated fat and trans fat in meals; and meeting the nutrition needs of school children within their calorie requirements.


Burnam said, “We have been working on making changes such as introducing whole grain bread items and fat-free milk and are already meeting those requirements.” “We will have to increase the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables.” Burnam said.

Vegetables are divided up into five subgroups: dark green, red/orange, bean and peas (legumes), starchy, and other. All subgroups are required to be offered over the course of a week. Servings of starchy vegetables are not limited.

The rule allows fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables to be used. Fruits require fresh, canned in fruit juice, or light syrup, frozen without added sugar, or dried.


The Plymouth School system implemented a “Wellness Policy” in 2006 that will be reviewed in the spring. Burnam indicated that in making the policy, many of the food concerns being implemented by the federal government now were addressed then.

The rule seeks to update school meal standards as required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA), which was signed into law on December 13, 2010.

The rule will be effective 60 days from the publication on January 26.  However; several of the requirements in the rule have staggered implementation deadlines. USDA estimates implementation of the new meal requirements will cost $3.2 billion over the next five years.


The rule implements a minimum and maximum calorie level for each grade group, to be met on average over the course of the week.

The calorie limits for each age/grade group take effect in school year 2012-2013. The limits are as follows: In the National School Lunch Program, Grades K-5 – 550-650; Grades 6-8 – 600-700; and Grades 9-12 – 750-850.

Those set for the School Breakfast Program include: Calorie limits are to be implemented in school year 2013-2014. The limits are as follows: Grades K-5 – 350-500; Grades 6-8 – 400-550; and Grades 9-12 – 450-600.

Burnam will be presenting a school breakfast and lunch report to the Plymouth School Board on January 7.

Carol Anders Correspondent