Schools face stricter standards for lunches
By Sarah Campbell
Lunch trays will look the same this year, but the contents will be a little different.
Different as in healthier.
School districts across the country face stricter standards, rolled out by the United State Department of Agriculture earlier this year, to ensure students are eating a reasonably balanced diet.
The changes include offering students both fruits and vegetables every day, increasing whole grain foods and limiting calories, saturated fat, trans fat and sodium.
Libby Post, director of child nutrition for the Rowan-Salisbury School System, said a lot more whole grains will be available this year, in everything from hot dog buns to cereals to pizza crust.
“The only thing that is not whole grain yet is our biscuit,” she said. “We’ve tried five different biscuits that are whole grain, but we haven’t found one that is acceptable and we hate to have hard, chewy biscuits.”
Post said the district has also ramped up its side choices.
One addition will be diced, roasted sweet potatoes.
Mixed-green salads made up of iceberg, romaine and spinach as well as chef salads will now be available daily.
Sunshine carrots, a kid-friendly favorite, will return to the menu. They are made with canola oil and a pinch of sugar, Post said.
Fruit and more
Post said the district will also have more fresh fruits and vegetables on hand next year thanks to the North Carolina Purchasing Alliance.
“It’s really helped us kind of broaden the products we choose and get better pricing,” she said.
That’s important because the new standards will cost the district about 30 cents more per meal, even though the federal government is only chipping in an additional 6 cents.
Post said apples, bananas and oranges have always been served frequently, but this year students will get a chance to taste fresh grapes, peaches, pears, carrots, celery and broccoli.
“Fresh is the operative word,” she said.
Despite additional cost and a quick rush to change the menu for this year after the standards were adopted, Post said the changes are a positive step.
“The ultimate result is a focus on healthier school meals, and that is a great thing,” she said.
“I’m really proud of what we’ve done. All the products that we’ve tested and recipes we’ve created are very tasty.”