In the old days it was cheeseburgers, fries, and splat of applesauce. But in the not so distant future the nations school lunches could have a much different look.
In January, the USDA proposed new federal nutrition guidelines for schools. These are the first proposed changes in 15 years, officals said. A 90-day public comment period ended earlier this month."Anytime the regulations suggest more fruits and vegetables that's a plus for our children," said Vicki Hoffman, Director of Nutritional Services for Wichita Schools.
Hoffman's job is to make sure school children get a good nutritious lunch for about $3 a day. New proposed stardards won't have a dramatic impact on the district, but could present some challenges, she said.
Among the USDA recommendations:
- Decreasing the amount of starchy vegetables, such as corn, potatoes, and peas, to one cup a week.
- Drastic reductions in sodium, which call for secondary schools to scale back salt intake by more than half over ten years.
- Calorie and fat content limits.
- Serve only 1% or fat free flavored milk
The proposed changes call for a weekly serving of a leafy green, a weekly serving of legumes (beans) and a weekly serving of orange vegetables, such as carrots or squash, Hoffman said.
Meal suggestions include getting rid of salty processed meats, in favor of more fish or protein alternatives such as beans, eggs, and nuts.
"That one would be a challenge for us. Partly because we're in the middle of Kansas and we don't have easy access to those products, and partly because kids don't eat those regularly and so it's not really their preference," said Hoffman.
Because of lack of cafeteria space, USD 259 relies heavily on food manufacturers to supply pre-packaged foods for the nearly 33,000 meals the district provides each day. Hoffman said in the future it will be up to those manufacturers to get in line with the federal standards, while still producing food kids will eat.
"The best food in the world doesn't do any good if it goes in the trash," she said.
Other school districts in the Wichita area are studying the proposed changes. Three years ago, Andover Schools adopted a "wellness policy", which called for more whole grains, and calorie, sugar and fat limits, a spokeswoman said.
The Maize district said it will comply with whatever new standards are adopted. A spokeswoman for the district noted that rising food prices are a concern and that meal costs have been increased by $.10 for the coming school year.