Industry awaits new USDA school food guidelines

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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CHICAGO – Food directors at approximately 135,000 public and private schools serving more than 56 million students as well as food suppliers are anticipating what the changes will be and how to address them, as the US Department of Agriculture moves closer to finalizing new nutrition standards for the nation's school lunch and breakfast programs.

"It is widely expected the bar will be raised, in terms of reducing hot-button areas like fat, sodium, sugar, allergens and additives, and increasingly more stringent guidelines on foods with solid nutritional value," says Joe Pawlak, vice president of Chicago-based foodservice consultancy Technomic. "Food directors may need to make substantial changes to their programs – and their suppliers better be ready with solutions."

Pawlak is directing a comprehensive study of the K-12 foodservice segment to help food manufacturers meet these challenges and identify new opportunities.

In addition to examining the impact of potential nutrition requirements, other areas under review include:

  • Expanded dayparts – Solutions for schools that are providing more than lunch, with even some feeding occurring in classrooms.
  • Changing demographics – The impact of population shifts on ethnic menu preferences.
  • Student and parent preferences – Evolving trends and demands for local, sustainable and environmentally-friendly foods and the impact on manufacturer brands.
  • Allergens – Strategies for addressing peanut and other food allergies.
  • Commodity processing – Ways suppliers can help schools manage their allocation of bulk purchases.

Technomic said its research approach will provide detailed market segmentation and evaluation of opportunities by sponsors' product categories. Sponsors will receive specific implications and recommendations, based on various potential scenarios. To learn more about this study, contact Alan Hyatt at alanhyatt@technomic.com.

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