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Federal panel calls for more produce, whole grains in school meals

October 20, 2009 |  1:55 am


More than 30 million children eat school lunches every day, and 10 million eat school breakfasts. If those children learn healthy eating habits at school and take those with them into adulthood, that could have some effect on the health of the nation, including the obesity that is plaguing so many people.

So says an Institute of Medicine panel in a report out today that recommends several changes to the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program, run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

For one thing, and this won't surprise anyone, more fruits and vegetables and whole grains would help, the committee says.

L.A. Unified has taken some steps already, serving brown rice and increasing spending on produce, from $3 million in 2006-07 to $12 million in 2007-08, says David Binkle, deputy food service director.

The chairwoman of the Institute of Medicine panel, Virginia Stallings, in her preface to the report, notes that in her childhood, school meals were meant to guard against undernourishment and iron deficiencies. But today, she notes, overweight children outnumber undernourished children.

-- Mary MacVean

(Photo: School lunch in L.A. by Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)