In an effort to reduce childhood obesity, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has new requirements for school lunches nationwide. Food options for District 287 students and for students across the country have changed. Kids are being served healthier foods.
According to the USDA website, new requirements include ensuring all students receive fruits and vegetables every day of the week, increasing offerings of whole grain-rich foods, limiting the number of calories students take in, and reducing the amounts of saturated fat, trans fats and sodium. These changes are compared to last year’s options in this chart.
According to Wanda Nickolai, Kitchen Supervisor for District 287, the most noticeable change this fall is for staff in the kitchen. School funding for food is tied to a very strict set of guidelines. Nickolai attended training sessions and worked on menus during the summer. Every menu must be submitted to the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) listing ingredients and label information for each ingredient in a recipe. Nickolai planned menus according to the new guidelines using products that looked familiar. “One example is whole grain buns,” she said. “I am buying whole grain breads that appear to be the same, even though the percentage of grain has increased.”
Nickolai’s thoughtful purchasing, her presentation of fruits and vegetables as a friendly invitation, and her encouraging attitude have paid off. Students at South Education Center were asked about what they thought about the lunches this year. Most of the students didn’t seem to notice a difference. Most were happy with choices, and most liked the taste. A few students said there could be more choices, or that they simply, “don’t like salad.” See students.
Calories are limited in the new rules. The maximum number of calories a student can have for school lunch in an average week is defined by age. Off camera, one student, an athlete, said he was hungry and could not focus on his work. Students can have as many fruits and vegetables as they want. Most are not choosing this option, yet.
Food Services Supervisor for the District, Rose Hobson shared her appreciation to those who are working hard to create healthy choices and encouraging students to learn to eat well. Staff has noted that school meals may be the only meals some students have each day. A district-wide task force is meeting to address the “hunger” concern. Collapse this story