Lunchables are going to be rolled out directly to students. Here’s what’s in them


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In a major new initiative, Kraft Heinz has succeeded in getting ready-to-eat packaged lunchables into school lunch programs starting this fall. But the company had to reformulate the ingredients to ensure the products first met federal guidelines.

The company told CNN Business on Tuesday, this will be the first time the lunches are entering directly into schools. Kraft Heinz said the new products will be available to all school administrators nationwide and will be offered to students for purchase at lunch — though the company did not disclose the cost to schools — or for free through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). . .

In addition to rolling out lunchables in schools, the company said it is also testing the addition of packaged lunchable fruit for sale in stores later this year, “with the potential to scale nationally in 2024.” .”

A craft Heinz

The executive, speaking at the annual Consumer Analyst Group in New York on Feb. 21, first announced that the company is preparing to serve its packed ready-to-eat lunch children’s meals directly to students by placing them in school cafeterias.

Carlos Abrams-Rivera, executive vice president of Kraft Heinz, said the two new types of lunchables (distinct from lunches sold in grocery stores), with “improved nutrition” that comply with NSLP requirements, will be served in K-12 schools across the country. , debuting this fall.

While Abrams-Rivera did not provide further details, a company website appeared to show the new products.

Kraft Heinz stated on their website, Kraft Heinz away from home, Lunchables products that it says are “made for schools” and “now meet NSLP” guidelines. NSLP, founded in 1946, provides lunch daily to nearly 30 million students in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions.

Information posted on describes the two products for the 2023-24 school year and are made for lunches “but are also great for field trips, summer school and dinner programs. For schools One of the main selling points is that school lunches don’t need to be frozen, but refrigerated, “at least [school] Labor requirements and costs.

The packaging for the turkey and cheddar lunchable option is described as a 3.5 ounce container. It contains a 2-ounce equivalent of MMA (meat/meat alternative), an ounce of grain equivalent and “meets the NSLP’s whole grain-enriched standards,” the document says. It contains 6 grams of saturated fat and 930 milligrams of sodium, Kraft Heinz said Tuesday.

The extra cheesy pizza option comes in a 5.05 ounce container and contains 2 ounces of MMA equivalent, 2 ounces of whole grains, 1/8 cup of red/orange vegetables, 7 grams of saturated fat, 700 mg of sodium and NSLP criteria for “whole grain-rich.

Kraft Heinz said both options were “made using a special recipe that includes more protein and whole grains to keep kids energized throughout the day, lower saturated fat and sodium, and an increased serving size.” .”

The idea to introduce school lunches comes amid newly proposed changes to school meal guidelines by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees it. Federally assisted school meal programs.

The proposed changes are aimed at reducing the level of added sugar and sodium in school-provided lunches. The standards will gradually reduce sodium limits over several school years.

While school meals are paid for through local and federal funding, the standards for what goes on children’s cafeteria trays are set by the USDA.

The agency’s job is to ensure that any food served at school is nutritious and meets the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Schools are mandated to offer students five portions of food — fruits, vegetables, protein, grains and milk — and students must have at least three (and one fruit or vegetable) as part of their lunch. should be offered.

Lauren Au, an assistant professor in the nutrition department at UC Davis who studies the effectiveness of school nutrition programs, said she looked at sodium, saturated fat and sugar content to determine if they were a worthwhile addition to the school. would like to know the lunch

“Research shows that excess sodium intake will increase the risk of developing high blood pressure and other diseases over time,” Au said. “Also of concern is that young children who are exposed to high sodium in packaged foods early in life may prefer high sodium foods throughout their lives.”

lunchable Turkey and cheddar cheese with crackers (3.2 oz.) tray sold at Target, for example, contains 740 mg of sodium in one packet serving size. Accordingly Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adults should limit sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day—the equivalent of about 1 teaspoon of table salt. For children under 14, the recommended limits are even lower.

Another thing that would apply is the cost of lunch for schools interested in buying them, AU said. “From a cost perspective, I would be concerned that these might be more expensive than the food currently available and the food offered in the NSLP,” he said.

Meghan Maroney, campaign manager for federal child nutrition programs at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), said, “Kraft Heinz has been promoting this in schools and state institutions for some time,” she said.

Maroney said she is also interested in learning the complete nutritional makeup of the two lunch products to determine if they fully meet current and proposed NSLP nutritional guidelines.

“Additionally, if the products are reformulated to meet NSLP guidelines, they will differ from lunchables sold in stores due to lower sodium, saturated fat and other requirements. It can be confusing for kids,” Maroney said.

But offering lunch in school cafeterias may be welcome in some school districts that are food-intensive, said Diane Pratt-Heavner, a spokeswoman for the School Nutrition Association, a 50,000-member trade group representing school food service providers. Struggling with prices and labor shortages.

“As school nutrition guidelines continue to become more complex, we’ve seen companies abandon the K-12 segment,” Pratt-Heavner said. “It is good to see a company interested in selling this segment. But I would see lunchables as one of the lunch options, and not that schools are moving away from offering a daily hot meal option.

Kraft Heinz is a partner of the School Nutrition Association.

— CNN’s Jane Christensen contributed to this story

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