The Harbinger Online

Government Changes Requirements for School Lunches

[media-credit id=3068 align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]The Kansas State Department of Education and the United States Department of Agriculture are now requiring that school lunches are served with a half cup of fruits and vegetables and a specific amount of grains and meats, depending on the ages of students. Students can also come back for as much fruits and vegetables as they want, free. In previous years, there has not been any standard on the exact amount of fruits and vegetables served with meals.

This change results from the implementation of the Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, which was initiated by First Lady Michelle Obama in her Let’s Move! campaign.

“The government pretty much mandated what we can serve the kids,” cafeteria manager Jan Buckley said. “They just want to make sure all kids get fed, and that they get the meal they deserve.”

An important purpose of the rule is to make sure kids have enough to eat, according to Buckley.

“We don’t know who, at home, is getting a meal that night, so we really want to make sure that each kid gets as much as their little tummy can hold,” Buckley said.

To help pay for the extra food the cafeteria much buy now, especially fruits and vegetables, the government will pay six cents per meal, per child. Buying the extra food is necessary because the cafeterias cannot run out of the foods they are required to serve. If they do run out of the required foods on the menu, they have to substitute it with something else in the same category.

“We have a chart that we look at and we find the food and substitute it out with something else in that group,” Buckley said. For the vegetables, there are five different subgroups in which vegetables can be swapped: dark green, red/orange, legumes, starchy, and other.

Since they cannot monitor the waste in the trash cans, they can’t be certain that all this extra food is truly being eaten.

“[The kids] don’t have to eat it; they just have to take it,” Buckley said. “[Students] go crazy for fruits, but you know how kids are with vegetables.”

Sophomore Clara Ma thinks the change will be beneficial for the eating habits of students.

“By improving the quality and healthiness of the food served in the cafeteria, students will have a more nutritious daily diet,” Ma said.

According to SMSD nutritionist Jill Funk, some of the new foods the cafeteria is now serving include fresh bell peppers, snow peas, mushrooms, sweet potato bites, kiwi, mangos, and plums – just to name a few.

Before this change, the national standard of kids’ health and nutrition hadn’t been changed for over 15 years. However, the district had made some changes of its own to the menu.

“We have also been increasing whole grains and decreasing sodium on the menus the past few years and will continue to do that,” Funk said.

Buckley hopes to serve items that have been taken off the list if students want them. If students request that a food is put back on the menu, that may happen.

“It’s really all about the kids and what they want,” Buckley said.

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Nellie Wittaker

Junior Nellie Whittaker is the online news section editor and print opinion page designer. Read Full »

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