Students get more fruit
More apples, squash sticks and whole grain breads are showing up on school cafeteria trays under new public school nutrition rules that require extra fruit, vegetables and whole grains.
But are kids actually eating the healthy stuff?
“I get the healthy stuff, but I liked it when they treat us to the unhealthy stuff,” Emonnie Jones, an eighth grader at Gage Middle School in Riverside, said as she squirted dressing on her dark green salad. She also p timberland outlet lanned to eat the corn on the cob and fresh fruit on her tray.
But a nearby trash can contained unopened bags of baby carrots, whole pears, apples, oranges, still steaming cups of Mexican style beans and broccoli that some students dumped on their way from the serving line to the lunch tables.
Emonnie, like many of her classmates, said she missed juice at lunch. School districts that adopted the changes early say students have grown to like the healthier fare. Department of Agriculture to update school meal nutrition standards to combat the national obesity epidemic. The legislation, which went into effect this school year, was the most comprehensive change to school lunches in more than a generation, according to a brochure Riverside Unified School District created to explain the changes to parents.
For school lunch programs to receive USDA reimbursement, students must receive at least one serving of fruit and a vegetable, said Riverside Nutrition Services Dir timberland outlet ector Rodney Taylor. It’s not enough for schools to just put out apples or pears for students to take if they want. The cafeteria staff must make sure students have the foods on their trays.
At high schools, workers put vegetables and fruit on students’ plates, said Jill Lancaster, director of nutrition services for Murrieta Valley Unified School District.
Flavored milk, such as chocolate or strawberry milk, must be nonfat. White milk can have no more than 1 percent fat.
The new dietary guidelines also set minimums and maximums for calories and portion sizes for proteins and grains. The portion sizes vary for elementary, middle and high school students.
The daily serving size of meat or meat alternative has decreased. Grains this year must be at least half whole grain rich, which the USDA defines as at least 51 percent whole grains. In 2013 14, they must all be whole grain rich. In 2014 15, sodium will be limited too, Taylor said
Taylor said a few parents complained t timberland outlet hat their children disliked the food at the start of the school year. Lunch sales dropped slightly (he estimated 3 percent) but are increasing again. More complaints came from high school boys, who were used to larger portion sizes, he said. He’s not heard any complaints from elementary schools, where students have eaten from salad bars supplied with fresh local produce for years.
Likewise, Murrieta Valley Unified School District has seen its sales drop slightly, maybe less than 5 percent, Lancaster said. She said a price increase probably contributed to the drop.
Parents support the healthier meals, she said, but they don’t see the waste that school principals and custodians complain about.
“We’ve spent nearly twice as much on produce this year,” Lancaster said.
Murrieta Valley cafeteria workers also spend more time preparing meals on tasks such as cutting up watermelon, Lancaster said.
She said her department could trim costs by reducing choices but is committed to offering different fruits and vegetable each day. Food service directors said students are more likely to eat their fruit and vegetables if they get to choose them.
They also said they have tried to make many of the changes invisible to students, such as putting vegetables underneath entrees such as teriyaki chicken.
WHOLE GRAINS POPULAR
Manufacturers also now supply school districts with white whole wheat products that students don’t seem to have noticed and that taste better than earlier versions that Lancaster compared to cardboard.
In Riverside, Gage seventh grader Jared Gravett said the hamburger and sandwich buns taste better this year.
Hemet Unified has been baking its own buns, whole grain pizza crust, rolls and muffins from the new, soft whole grain flour. It has developed muffin recipes that replace oil with applesauce to lower the fat content and meet new dietary guidelines, Nutrition Services Director Brad Knipsheer said.
Gage Middle School Principal Pablo Sanchez said he and his staff already see less food be timberland outlet ing wasted than at the beginning of the school year.