Food for thought: Area districts struggle to meet nutrition mandates and still offer lunches kids will eat

"It's a work in progress," said Laffert. "It's a training program " a tool " for starting nutrition early with the students. Under that umbrella, what we do is eliminate stuff that kids actually like " French fries, sugar cereals, that sort of thing " and we try to train the children to make a healthy choice dietary-wise."

Laffert said that because of the nutrition standards placed on meals, it can be difficult to keep students interested in school-provided lunches.

Another challenge Laffert mentioned is trying to be mindful of differing tastes between male and female students when drawing up the monthly menus.

Male students tend not to be as health-conscious as female students, he said, even at the middle school level, and getting boys interested in health-oriented choices can be hard.

"They want their cheeseburgers," said Laffert, adding that girls are choosing more salads and healthy foods.

The Guilderland Central Schools food service program, headed by Linda Mossop, takes a different approach to providing healthy meals, and recently began offering nutritious twists on traditionally unhealthy foods. The district offers foods like whole-wheat pizzas and uses whole-wheat burger rolls.

The change to whole wheat was originally met with some resistance from the students.

"Initially, they thought we were trying to push whole wheat down their throats," said Mossop, but she said that is no longer an issue.

But the change comes with a cost. Mossop said a plain, white dinner roll costs six cents; the whole-wheat alternative costs 13 cents.

In addition to the whole-wheat substitutes, the district uses other approaches to comply with the health guidelines.

"We won't sell any snack that's larger than a single serve," said Mossop.

At the high school, students can add a la carte organic alternatives to their meals. These foods are all natural, with no pesticides or additives, she said.

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