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New school year brings changes to lunch program

September 18, 2012

The new USDA standards limit the amount of calories allowed per meal according to the age of the students.
Cathy Marsh

Staff Writer

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA) was signed by President Obama in December of 2010. For the first time in 15 years, the USDA was allowed to make changes to the standard requirements for the school lunch program. Their goal was to improve childhood nutrition by providing a healthier lunch to the nation's school children and to help control childhood obesity which can lead to numerous health issues such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. According to the USDA, in 2011, more than 31.8 million children each day got their lunch through the National School Lunch Program.

Heather Wahl, Food Service Director-Compliance Coordinator at Lunchtime Solutions, works with the Adrian School District to ensure that the meals provided to the students meet the nutrition standards. Heather said that, "The Adrian School District meal program was already in compliance with most of the Nutrition Standards for the National School Lunch Program." She goes on to say that some changes had to be made to meet newly established standards.

A new USDA requirement is that half of the grains offered must be 'whole grain rich'. This means that the bread, pasta, rice, tortillas, and crusts must be at least 51% whole grain.

Portion sizes are determined by the USDA. Previously, portion sizes were divided into two groups; K to 3rd grade and 4th to 12th grade. Now, the portion sizes are be based on K - 5th grade, 6th - 8th grade, and 9th - 12th grade.

The new USDA standards limit the amount of calories allowed per meal according to the age of the students. The maximum number of calories that can be served ranges from 650 calories for students in K - 5th, to a maximum of 700 for those in 6th - 8th grade, and to no more than 850 calories for 9th - 12th graders.

The USDA established a maximum serving amount per week for breads. It is because of this regulation that unlimited bread is no longer offered at lunch. Heather says that whole grain bread sticks and rolls, baked fresh at school, will be offered with some entrees. She also points out that white bread is a simple carbohydrate. The body breaks down the sugars in the bread quickly so you're likely to feel hungry sooner. Whole grain foods are complex carbohydrates. It takes longer for the body to break down the sugars so you're likely to feel full longer than if you had eaten white breads.

Lunches must include a minimum of 1/2 cup of fruit or vegetables.

Students may still have an unlimited number of servings of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are complex carbohydrates.

Heather says that Lunchtime Solutions has purchased locally grown produce such as corn on the cob, melon, tomatoes, radishes, and cucumbers to use on the schools' salad bar. She adds that every day there are 4 different fruits on the salad bar - two fresh and two canned. There will be 6 different vegetables of which at least one will be served hot.

An additional change is that elementary school students are now given a choice of three entrées. At the middle school/high school, students have 6 entree options.

There are new entree choices on the lunch menu. Heather suggests that parents use the menus to help children pick what they want to eat. Explain 'fajitas', 'cavatini', or 'mojo sandwich'. Often, students don't know what an entree is so they don't choose it. Menus are sent home with the elementary school students. Menus are available in the high school office. Parents can look at and print the menus from a link on the school website.

Parents are always welcome to call the school principals or Heather with any questions or concerns.

Russ Lofthus, elementary school principal, is pleased with the meals that Lunchtime Solutions provides to the students at AES. "I think a lot of people are already eating healthy at home and are making healthy choices. This is just an extension of that."

Both Heather and Russ agree; the upgrades to the school lunch standards are, "Helping to build healthy habits at a young age."

October is National Hot Lunch Month. Parents of students in the elementary school are invited to have lunch with their child(ren). More information will be coming home with the students.

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