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The new lunch line

Guidelines require schools to meet stringent nutrition standards

Students throughout the country will see a new serving requirements for fruits and vegetables on their lunch tray this school year.

Students throughout the country will see a new serving requirements for fruits and vegetables on their lunch tray this school year.

— Students still have a few days before the morning bell chimes again, but schools have already been hard at work in the kitchen preparing to feed pupils.

School districts throughout Schenectady County are preparing to offer a slightly different fare to students at breakfast and lunch after new federal food service regulations were implemented in July. The new regulations are based on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies and are “expected to enhance the diet and health of school children and help mitigate the childhood obesity threat,” according to the USDA.

Kimberly Gagnon, supervisor of the Food Service Program at Mohonasen Central School District, said the guidelines wouldn’t only be beneficial for kids.

“Overall I think it is a very, very healthy way to eat. If we all followed these guidelines none of us would have these weight problems,” Gagnon said. “I think that we are a society where the portions that are served are way, way too big.”

In 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which increased the number of children eligible to participate in free school lunch programs and required school districts to be audited to improve compliance every three years. It also set new nutritional standards for all foods sold in schools.

The new rules require schools to increase the servings of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free milks. The amounts of sodium, trans fat and saturated fat allowed in foods have been reduced. Meals must now meet caloric limits based on the age and grade of students, too.

Under the new regulations, fruits and vegetables can have no added sugars or syrups and must be either fresh or frozen, with limited use of canned produce allowed. A limit is also placed on the number or times starchy or deep-fried vegetables can be served each week.

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