What’s Up with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010?

By Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N.

According to the USDA, the new meal requirements under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, will raise standards for the first time in more than fifteen years and improve the health and nutrition of nearly 32 million kids that participate in school meal programs every school day. The healthier meal requirements are a key component of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
The New Standards
The final standards make the same kinds of practical changes that many parents are already encouraging at home, including:

  • Ensuring students are offered both fruits and vegetables every day of the week;
  • Substantially increasing offerings of whole grain-rich foods;
  • Offering only fat-free or low-fat milk varieties;
  • Limiting calories based on the age of children being served to ensure proper portion size; and
  • Increasing the focus on reducing the amounts of saturated fat, trans fats and sodium.


The projected cost of the new healthier meals is about $7 billion. In fact, the new healthier meals are projected to cost about $.14 more per meal.  The Federal Government will send the schools an additional $.06 per meal but the states will have to figure out how to pay the additional $.08 per meal. The price of a regular school lunch meal will be required to be increased as a result of the new regulations. In addition, more school districts may have to create partnerships with local farmers and may even decide to plant school gardens to help with the extra costs which may be a positive for the children in the long run.

According to 2011 survey by the Washington-based National Potato Council , “Sixty percent of district-school food-service directors expected costs to increase and more food to be wasted under the proposal.” In fact, the concern is that the kids won’t eat some of the foods. But then, I say if they are hungry they will eat the food. But the proof will be in tray waste.

I used to be a Program Reviewer for Child Nutrition Programs and the National School Lunch Program with the Alaska Department of Education in the early 80s. Looking at the new regulations, not sure how the Indians and Eskimos in Alaska will be able to comply due to the remote areas and weather conditions during the school year. Hopefully they will still receive the reimbursements because often times the breakfast and lunches are the only meals these kids eat on a regular basis.

Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010: Before and After Menus



Before                                                            After

Bean and cheese burrito (5.3 oz)         Submarine Sandwich (1 oz turkey

With mozzarella cheese (1 oz)               5 oz low fat cheese) on a whole wheat roll

Applesauce (1/4 cup)                               Refried beans (1/2 cup)

Orange juice (4 oz)                                      Jicama (1/4 cup)

2% milk (8 oz)                                              Green pepper strips (1/4 cup)

Cantaloupe wedges, raw (1/2 cup)

Skim Milk (8 oz)

Mustard (9 grams)

Reduced fat mayonnaise (1 oz)

Low fat ranch dip (1 oz)



Before                                                     After

Hot dog on bun (3 oz)                          Whole Wheat Spaghetti with meat sauce

With ketchup (4 T)                                      (1/2 cup) and whole wheat roll

Canned pears (1/4 cup)                       Green beans, cooked (1/2 cup)

Raw Celery & carrots (1/8 cup each)    Broccoli (1/2 cup)

With ranch dressing (1.75 T)              Cauliflower (1/2 cup)

Low-fat (1%) chocolate milk (8 oz)       Kiwi halves, raw (1/2 cup)

Low-fat (1%) milk (8 oz)

Low fat ranch dip (1 oz)

Soft margarine (5 g)




Before                                                         After

Pizza sticks (3.8 oz)                                 Chef Salad (1 cup romaine, 5 oz low fat

With marinara sauce (1.4 cup)             mozzarella, 1.5 grilled chicken) w/whole

Banana                                                             wheat

Raisins (1 oz)                                                 Soft pretzels (2.5 oz)

Whole milk (8 oz)                                        Corn, cooked (1/2 cup)

Baby carrots, raw (1/4 cup)


Skim chocolate milk (8 oz)

Low fat ranch dressing (1.5 oz)

Low fat Italian dressing (1.5 oz)


Before                                                      After

Breaded beef patty (4 oz)                  Oven-baked fish nuggets (2 oz)

With ketchup (2T)                                with whole wheat roll

Wheat roll (2 oz)                                   Mashed potatoes (1/2 cup)

Frozen fruit juice bar (2.4 oz)            Steamed broccoli (1/2 cup)

2% milk (8 oz)                                          Peaches (canned, packed in juice ½ cup)

Skim milk (8 oz)

Tartar sauce (1.5 oz)

Soft margarine (5 g)



Before                                                    After

Cheese pizza (4.8 oz)                         Whole wheat cheese pizza (1 slice)

Canned pineapple (1/4 cup)                  Baked sweet potato fries (1/2 cup)

Tater tots (1/2 cup)                           Grape tomatoes, raw (1/4 cup)

With ketchup (2 T)                                      Applesauce (1/2 cup)

Low fat (1%) chocolate milk (8 oz)       Low-fat (1%) milk (8 oz)

Low fat ranch dip (1 oz)


How Many Calories Do Kids Need to Eat Each Day

Below are the calorie levels for each age group. Compare the maximum and minimum calories allowed for breakfast and lunch served at school.  You can get an idea of the calories as a parent that you need to be prepared to offer your children at  their meals at home to ensure they are getting enough calories but not too many calories to cause weight gain. With 1/3 of American children being overweight or obese, school lunch and meals at home can help decrease this trend.


5- to 8-Year-Olds

Girls in this age group should eat 1,200 to 1,800 calories a day, and boys in this group need 1,400 to 2,000 calories daily, depending on their activity level.

9- to 13-Year-Olds

Girls between the ages of 9 and 13 should consume 1,600 to 2,200 calories daily, and boys in this group need 1,800 to 2,600 calories every day.

14- to 18-Year-Olds

Girls should get 1,800 to 2,400 calories each day, and boys should get 2,200 to 3,200 calories daily. Percentages for proteins, carbohydrates and fats are the same as for younger groups.


National Breakfast and School Lunch Program Regulatory Requirements

Old Standards                                         New Standards

Calories (min only)                            Calorie ranges (min & max)

Traditional Menu Planning                    Only food-based menu planning allowed

Lunch:                                                          Lunch:

633 (grades K-3)                                          550 – 650 (grades K-5)

785 (grades 4 – 12)                                     600 – 700 (grades 6-8)

825 (optional grades 7-12)                       750 – 850 (grades 9-12)


Breakfast:                                                Breakfast:

554 (grades K-12)                                     350 – 500 (grades K-5)

400 – 550 (grades 6-8)

450 – 600 (grades 9-12)


Enhanced Menu Planning


664 (grades K-6)

825 (grades 7 – 12)

633 (optional grades K-3)



554 (grades K-12)

774 (optional grades 7-12)


Nutrient Based Menu Planning


664 (grades K-6)

825 (grades 7 – 12)

633 (optional grades K-3)



554 (grades K-12)

618 (optional grades 7-12)


Old Standards                         New Standards

Saturated Fat                         Saturated Fat

<10 of total calories                 <10 of total calories


Old Standards                         New Standards

Trans Fat                                     Trans Fat

No limit                                            Zero grams of trans fats per serving

Based on nutrition label


Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N., is a registered dietitian with a Master’s Degree in clinical nutrition.  The former publisher of Kentuckiana HealthFitness Magazine, Kentuckiana Healthy Woman magazine and radio show host of Health News You Can Use, Barbara has over 30 years of experience in promoting healthy lifestyles to consumers.  Barbara worked as Nutrition Consultant to the Navy SEALs (8 years) and the University of Louisville Athletic Department (10 years). Barbara has private practice, DayByDay Nutrition, www.DayByDayNutrition.com, where she counsels clients on weight loss, cholesterol management, performance nutrition and an array of other medical issues.  Visit Barbara’s new website which is an on-line health & wellness magazine, www.KentuckianaHEALTHWellness.com. Barbara writes nutrition and health columns for www.LiveStrong.com as well as a weekly nutrition column for the Southeast Outlook. She also designs and presents employee wellness programs to small and large businesses. Barbara is a runner, cyclist, hiker and a mother and grandmother to 12 grandchildren.    



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