From the Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit Blog- A New School Lunch

A blog featured by Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit:

Have you heard about any changes to your child’s school lunch? I have and I don’t even have kids. My niece’s have filled me in and they aren’t happy. One says she’s still starving after eating her lunch. The other one says she would rather pack her lunch now. I’ve even heard teachers in Lake Forest School District comment about how terrible the lunches are this year.

The changes are a result of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010. For the first time in over 20 years, the USDA is implementing significant changes to the nutrition standards of National School Lunches and the School Breakfast Programs. Like it or not, this is mandatory for public schools across the country. What are some of the new requirements for 2012? Here are a few:

  • Offer fruit daily (lunch)
  • Offer vegetable subgroups weekly (lunch)
  • Half of grains must be whole grain-rich (lunch and breakfast)
  • Offer only fat-free and low-fat unflavored milk (lunch and breakfast)
  • Calorie counting (see a recent article from the News Journal here)

There are more to be phased in over a 3 year timeline such as sodium servings; however, most changes for school lunch happened this year.

But wait, there’s more! There are MANY optional movements targeting a new and improved school lunch and October was a popular month for their celebration. For example, October was National Farm to School Month. Delaware has been a part of this movement, and recently unveiled a new website for the program. School districts such as Colonial, Seaford, Smyrna, and Woodbridge embraced the idea of Farm to School early on and are dedicated to the movement. Recently WBOC and the Cape Gazette featured Smyrna School District for their revamping of school lunch by incorporating Farm to School. Farm to School allows cafeterias to offer fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers, while still implementing the new nutrition standards. It’s a win, win situation for schools and local farmers!

The National School Lunch Week (NSLW) is another celebration which was held October 15-19. Did your school district plan something special to celebrate? Seaford School District is a good example. With a “School Lunch: What’s Cooking” theme, students toured the kitchen facilities during the week-long celebration. I read this in a recent Sussex County Post article and just last year, I blogged about Seaford achieving silver level status from the Healthier U.S. School Challenge Award.

So, what do I say to my nieces? Well, I know their district has not embraced the Farm to School movement. I think this would help make some of the fruits and veggies they serve more appealing to students. One way to entice students to eat healthy food is to use creative marketing when it comes to menu writing and educational curriculum. Perhaps a way to approach the issue is to start asking questions of the cafeteria manager, nutrition supervisor, or superintendent of the district. Questions to ask could be:

  • What resources or equipment do our cafeterias need to serve a better tasting school lunch, especially with the new nutrition standards?
  • What did our district do to promote National School Lunch Week?
  • Does our district participate in Farm to School? If not, why?

Perhaps you could even send your superintendent or PTA leaders the articles or videos featured in this blog. Show them that a healthy school lunch doesn’t have to taste bad!

4 thoughts on “From the Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit Blog- A New School Lunch

  1. You have to wonder if the kids are getting seasonal, fresh fruit/vegetables that are well-prepared, or is is canned/frozen stuff? If it’s the latter, no wonder they don’t like it …

    • Well the farm to school program is definitely more seasonally focused. So the issue here is that school is out when the majority of produce is in, especially here on the east coast. But my feeling is that the new federal reg changes are going to force school cafeterias to rethink menus and equipment, which can be good or bad depending on how creative they are and what kind of resources they have…

  2. Christy, these changes don’t seem bad at all – heck, the only thing I could see a kid objecting to is the loss of chocolate milk! May I ask why your nieces are upset? Did the changes mean that other, favorite things were removed from menus?

  3. Susanne-I only included a few of the federal changes. The timeline attached will give you the whole list. You sort of have to imply some of the changes (keep in mind the menu is pretty much the same as 20-30 years ago). For example, grilled cheese most likely will not be served on white bread. The pizza dough crust may have to be whole grain. The calorie counting is a big one, which basically means servings are smaller, which is why my older niece is hungry (the News Journal article is really good on this). Sodium will be cut back in the latter years, but I think some have already implemented this change. This will affect the chips being served and the taste of many items. Hope this helps. I think it will take a couple years for school districts to rethink menus and attain proper equipment to make meals taste good.

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