By Susan Gager
KWCH 12 Eyewitness News
3:43 PM CST, January 9, 2013
Fewer kids are eating school lunches this year in the Wichita school district. While school officials say it's hard to know exactly what's to blame, students say the healthy guidelines have made school lunch harder to stomach. Wednesday, Wichita students got to test some new, healthy options.
USD 259 prepared quite the lunch spread: wraps, pizzas, and hot food. Staff are hoping the items will entice students to eat school lunch.
“All the fruits and vegetables are really fresh right now. I don't know if it's like that at school because I don't eat school lunch,” said high school student food tester Courtney Allen.
“It's been good. I like the salsa ranch which I didn't think I would like,” said high school student food tester Melody Munsell.
Students use electronic clickers to voice their opinions. Those opinions could impact next year's school lunch menu. That menu includes some stiff health guidelines. Federal guidelines include 750-850 calories for the entire meal, and no more than 10% saturated fat. The district needs to cut sodium to less than 740 milligrams per meal by fall 2021.
“It's like a big puzzle, you just work with it, put the meals together and look at the numbers and say oh I'm too high, what do I adjust? It's a very complex meal planning system,” said nutritional services director Vicki Hoffman.
Federal guidelines include more emphasis on whole grains and vegetables. Schools need to fall in line to receive funding, but since those guidelines are in place fewer students are eating lunch.
“Everything in there is really wheaty and every time you go in there it's wheat bread, or wheat with it,” said Munsell.
The biggest challenge anytime is planning foods that kids want to eat. The first thing is if they're going to eat healthy foods, you have to make foods that they'll actually eat.
Many at the taste testing event were high school seniors and won’t get to see how their efforts will change the menu. However they do hope to leave a better school lunch for underclassmen next year.
“It actually tastes good. It doesn't taste like it has wheat. It doesn't too healthy. It tastes healthy,” said Munsell.
The school district will bring delivery pizza back to students. That's because more companies are changing recipes to include whole wheat options.
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