Kids heading back to school this fall may notice some changes when they sit down to a school provided lunch; noticeably smaller portions and more fruits and veggies.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, championed by Michelle Obama and signed by President Barack Obama have set new standards for schools and their food providers.
On the surface, the concept makes sense, but the changes are detailed, 72 provisions in all, and complicated.
For example, the new rules dictate the kinds of specific vegetables that must be provided, breaking down the components into items such as "red" and "dark green" vegetables. The rules generally lower the weight of the minimum daily requirements for meat in the lower grades.
A letter from school lunch provider Whitsons, posted on the Commack School District's website, says most noticiable changes kids will see are to portion sizes. For example:
- age-appropriate calorie limits
- larger servings of fruit and vegetables
- increased vegetable protein offerings, such as beans
- smallers servings of proteins and carbohydrates
Menu planning will now be based by age groups; K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 and average calories per meal must fall within defined ranges for each age and grade group. Also under the new guidelines, no added trans fat for items on the menu.
The act will also provide additional federal funding for school districts of six cents per meal.
Kids can expect to see menu items like cheese and bean burritos changed out to a sub sandwich with low fat turkey and cheese, whole-wheat cheese pizza instead of cheese pizza and sweet potato fries in place of tater tots.
"Students will definitely notice a difference," said Holly Von Seggern, vice president of marketing for Whitsons, which serves about 20 school districts across Long Island.
Whitsons has been preparing for the changes for almost two years and providing a range of new options for its districts to get kids used to the changes, Von Seggern said. They've even recommended that parents offer whole grains and more fruits and bean dishes during the summer to prepare kids for the changes.
Menus for September can be found on the district's website divided into categories of primary schools, intermediate schools, and Commack Middle Shool and High school. Specific ingredient lists per menu item and nutritional information are also posted for interested parents.
We'd like to ask you: How will these healthy menu changes to the school lunch menu affect your child? Will they still purchase school lunch or are they more likely to want to bring from home?
Tell us in the comments below.
Plainview editor Joe Dowd contributed to this story.