Advocating healthier school lunches: Ammerman and Hobbs featured in The Gazette
|February 08, 2012|
This article by Gary Moss originally appeared in the Feb. 8 issue of The University Gazette. It is reprinted here with permission.
Just as there is no such thing as a free lunch, there has never been a school lunch program fully free of politics.
The new guidelines for school lunches, announced Jan. 25 by First Lady Michelle Obama and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, are no exception, said Suzanne Havala Hobbs.
The new guidelines, which will go into effect in the 2012-2013 school year, represent the first major nutritional overhaul of school meals in more than 15 years, Hobbs said.
And the good news, from a purely nutritional point of view, is that the guidelines are better than ever before, said Hobbs, who directs the Executive Doctoral Program in Health Leadership in the Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Department of Health Policy and Management.
Under the new rules, the ubiquitous pizza and French fries won’t disappear from the lunch lines, but they will be made with healthier ingredients. And for the first time, entire meals will have calorie caps and most trans fats will be banned.
Sodium will gradually decrease over a 10-year period. And while milk remains the designated beverage, it will now have to be low in fat, and flavored milk will have to be nonfat.
Alice Ammerman, a professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Gillings School, along with David Cavallo, a PhD candidate in the department who has partnered with Ammerman on a host of school nutrition projects, have taken a pragmatic rather than purist approach in evaluating the changes.
“If students have French fries now and then, provided it is a good quality fat that they are fried in, it is not a terrible thing,” Ammerman said. “Potato production is good for the North Carolina economy as well – especially sweet potatoes, our state vegetable.”