NVDAILY.COM | Local News

Posted July 24, 2012 | comments 9 Comments

Several changes coming to school lunches

By Kim Walter -- kwalter@nvdaily.com

Parents can expect to see a few changes in school lunches this year, as new federal requirements were established through the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

In the past, students had the option to include a fruit or vegetable with lunch, but now a serving of fruit or vegetables is required. There used to be no limit to the amount of protein and grains that students could consume each week. Now, new minimums and maximums have been set, so most students will see smaller portion sizes in both of those categories.

Additionally, 50 percent of grains offered have to be whole grains, and by 2014 that will increase to 100 percent. The milk that comes with lunch will either be 1 percent low fat or fat free. Flavored milk will still be offered, but it has to be fat free.

While requirements will be the same throughout the state, some schools have more catching up to do than others.

SueAnn Fox, Food Service Coordinator for Warren County Public Schools, said the district has already implemented some of the changes, so students and parents alike shouldn't be too surprised.

"I think the biggest change that students will notice is that a fruit or veggie is required now," Fox said. Cashiers at the end of the lunch line will make sure that students have one of the components on their plate, she added.

Warren County has already made the change in milk requirements, and has offered 40 percent whole grains, so there won't be a huge shift in what students will see on the menu. However, Fox said that before it was hard to produce enough bread to meet requirements, but now with the maximum being in place "it's like a complete 180."

"Since the amount of required protein is being reduced, we'll try to go with a bit higher quality," Fox said. Portion sizes vary between grades kindergarten through fifth, sixth through eighth and ninth through 12th, which adds another level of complication for Warren County, since eighth graders are in the high schools. "We're still trying to figure out how to work that," she said.

School lunch prices will go up by 5 cents at the elementary level, and by 10 cents at the secondary level in Warren County.

"We are so far below what is expected as far as what we charge for lunch," Fox said. Over the next few years, schools will have to raise prices to meet the desired cost of $2.50.

"It's really all a balancing act of what kids want, what they'll take, and then what they actually eat," she explained. "It doesn't do any good if the food ends up in the trash."

Fox said she plans to push communication between the schools and parents to address any concerns with the school lunch changes. Increased signage and learning materials will be throughout the schools to get students thinking about what makes a healthy lunch, she said.

"I think kids are making better choices," she said. "It's not about their weight or being a certain number...it's about being healthy."

Shenandoah County Public Schools are not planning a price increase for this year, according to Food Services Supervisor Beverly Polk, but similar portion adjustments will take place in the county to get up to regulation.

"This will take time, it won't happen over night," she said of the new requirements.

The schools make a lot of their food from scratch, Polk said, and have been pushing daily intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in recent years.

Frederick County Public Schools have also slowly implemented changes to meet the new meal requirements.

"We're trying to minimize the noticeable changes to students through careful menu planning," said Jennifer White, supervisor of School Nutrition Services.

"We've found that the changes are perceived better by kids when we ask for their input on the food," she said. One possible new menu item that coincides with the grain requirement is whole grain bread in the shape of a Goldfish, "to make it more kid friendly."

The county plans to increase lunch prices by 10 cents in all grade levels, White said.

9 Comments | Leave a comment

    The school lunches that kids recieve now are barely enough to fill their little tummies and half of what they are given adults wouldn't eat. How often do you see the teachers ask for what they kids are having as opposed to having a salad? They should have to eat the same things..Also, Fat free milk, some may like it but my kids hate the taste, and teachers get iced tea. Who wants to eat a bbq pork rib patty, sweet potato tots and fat free milk.. I think its a shame that we are making the portions that they get smaller but raising the price. Like we don't pay enough taxes as it is. I support the teachers and the schools 100% on most things but when it comes to us having to pay what we do for their lunches and the children get LESS, i have an issue with that. I see A LOT of packed lunches in my kids futures.

      You have got to be kidding me. Take a look around you and see why the portions are smaller. If you haven't noticed obesity is a MAJOR problem. Teachers get iced tea because they are adults and supposedly know enough to eat a balanced diet. Although looking at some of the teachers I see around here, maybe they need to drink skim milk and radically adjust their diet. As for the "paying enough taxes" comment, why are my taxes going to feed your kids? The target price of $2.50 a lunch is still a fantastic deal. Where else can you get a prepared meal for that money. Try McD's or even 7-11 and see what kind of nutrition you get there, and for more than $2.50. Way to go for the "super-size" mentality.

      I don't know how many school lunches you have attended recently, but I can tell you in my experience, having been lucky enough to have lunch with my kids several times a year throughout different grades, The VAST majority of kids in that lunchroom eat less than a quarter of what's on their tray or in their lunchbox. Not because the food is not good, they just spend so much time talking to their friends and goofing off that they just don't eat. I'm sure it changes as kids get older, but at the elementary level, I'm all for smaller higher quality portions. It just means less of it will end up in the trash.

    I was sitting here, mouth gaping, thinking exactly the same thing, always_amused.

    I have children in all 3 tiers of WCPS. On the few occasions they came home from school in severe hunger, when questioned about what they ate at lunch, it was always because they chose not to eat something. Whether it be they only ate the entree, or they just ate a side, either way its because they didn't eat all that's offered.

    I even went as far as to ask them if they were offered enough food while typing this without telling them why, they all said yes.

    Did you know obesity related medical conditions are over and above the cost of smoking related? Or that London you can buy a "fat american" handbag? We are the laughingstock of the world. I applaud this program. Some parents have no choice but to buy less healthy foods due to costs, and this is at least 1 healthy meal both in content and portion size a day.

    Otherwise you can pack ;) Less work for the cafeteria ladies, and apparently saves money since our schools are undercharging for the food at the moment.


    Actually one big reason as to why American is a "laughing stock", while it may be due to the problem with obesity a lot of it is how we are addressing the problem. What about exercise ?? I believe in other countries kids get a lot more exercise at school ( and at home ) than they do here meanwhile back in the good'ole USA I myself know many parents who will NOT allow their kids to join say little league for fear that something "may happen " such as the child "may get hurt". BOO HOO HOO !!! With America way too many people tend to scream about how us as a society are too fat so we blame soda pop and McDonalds but at the same time we overlook how important exercise is. Sorry but spending 14 hours online at one's desk at home ( yes even working ) is NOT exercise.

    OK we know pretty much how schools are addressing the issue of obesity when it comes to lunch but what are the schools doing when it comes to exercise? Are they expanding gym classes and sports or are they cutting back on such things where once was gym class is now "study hall" where kids can sit for an hour or two playing with their cellphones, Ipods and laptops while they drink their Red Bulls? Schools can provide the best in nutrition but if they don't allow kids to play, ah guess what? Kids will stay fat. Just like adults !! Sure, give up soda pop, candy bars, pizzas and only eat what is ok per-weight watchers but if very same person spends the entire day and most of the night at home on the internet to work, shop, and play rather than hitting the gym or even actually leaving the house to actually go to a store...he/she will remain well..fat !!! One really does need to go outside and play...which BTW is what I will be doing as soon as I am finished with this replay.


    Why is the government providing school lunches in the first place? Many folks may remember having their parents prepare sandwiches, an apple and cookies, all nicely packed into a school lunch box which kids carried with them.

    Let's revive the school lunch box tradition. Better food for kids and a much better deal for taxpayers.

    While we are at it, let's have cost-sharing for public education. If families know that they are no longer getting a free ride with no accountability, parents will monitor homework and better students will result.

      Judicia, you have no idea the number of kids that go to school without breakfast because the family hasn't the money needed to provide a decent morning meal, at one time breakfast was offered at the schools at a reduced cost, not sure if that is the case now. A very large number of children get free lunches because the family doesn't have the income to provide a lunch, packed or purchased. There is only enough money for one meal a day, the evening meal. I have seen poverty in my lifetime and it's not pretty in anyway, shape or form. I've been fortunate to never have experienced it and my children always had breakfast, lunch and dinner. When they were attending school and growing like weeds, it was an average week for me to purchase at minimum five to seven gallons of milk. I had a good job that paid well and I worked overtime to provide "extras" for my family and I'm thankful I could do so.

      I agree parents should be more involved in their childrens lives, it is absolutely necessary but often parents work different shifts leaving one in charge . . . been there, done that too.

      And in case you missed the news, it was recently announced slightly over 20% of children now live in poverty and the percentage is rising.

      I don't know how old you are, but I'm 66 and we ALWAYS had school lunches provied by the government. As far as providing lunch from home, a huge amount of kids in Warren County live in families below poverty level and the only food they sometimes get durng the day is a school lunch. I don't mind my tax dollars going for that AT ALL.


Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily | nvdaily.com | 152 N. Holliday St., Strasburg, Va. 22657 | (800) 296-5137