Friday, May 24, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
Marshall Abbott, Allen Duncan and Caitlyn Boatman, from left, all second[graders at Oakdale Heights Elementary School in Dallas, chow down during lunch Sept. 5. A new federal guideline has altered school lunches in 2012-13
September 11, 2012
POLK COUNTY -- "You need to take some more fruit or vegetables with your lunch."
The student standing at the end of Donna King's checkout line in the Central High cafeteria during a recent lunchtime rush shot her a puzzled expression.
King, Central's head cook, calmly explained it was part of a law now in effect. The boy sighed, shook his head, and tossed a handful of carrots and bell peppers beside the burger and tater tots on his tray.
King had to give the same spiel for most of the period. Reactions varied from congenial to annoyed.
"My throat is sore now," King said with a laugh afterward. "I think most of them took it OK ... that last one was a little perturbed, though."
The first week of school is always one of adjustments. And new federal nutrition and meal standards for school lunches are taking some getting use to for both students and K-12 public school leaders.
This includes requiring students at all grade levels to take a full serving of fruit or vegetables with their meal -- and actually monitoring kids to make certain that happens -- and prescribed serving sizes for some food groups.
Feelings on them by officials in Polk County school are mixed at best.
"Yes, it's a change, and yes, it's harder on us," said Dallas School District Superintendent Christy Perry. "It's also probably the right thing to do for wellness."
The rules fall under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kid's Act, which became law in December of 2010. The United States Department of Agriculture released language for the act this winter. It went into effect in July.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act became law in December 2010 and is now changing the way students fill their trays and plates at Polk County schools
School districts, particularly food service staffs, have done training on the rules since. Oregon has given its schools a "flexibility period" until Oct. 1 to adjust, said Carlos Gonzales, Dallas' food services director.
In order for a school district to be fully reimbursed by the USDA for meals, they must be in compliance, Gonzales said.
"When menu certification starts, the state will visit each district, check our menus and our lunch lines to make sure what we're giving out counts as a reimbursable meal," he said.
Some elements of the new rules have proven unpopular with students and school officials alike, such as size cap on servings of grains.
Mike Vetter, food service director for Central School District, said the allowance for grains per week is now 12.5 ounces; it was 30 ounces per week last year.
Vetter said 6-inch-long hoagie rolls used for deli sandwiches last year -- a cafeteria favorite in the past -- have now been replaced with small hamburger buns about half the size.
"I was disappointed with that," Vetter said. "There will be some unhappy children."
One is Taylor Harris, a Central High junior.
"They're teeny-tiny!" Harris said after downing a ham sandwich in a few bites. "You can't put a lot on it ... I'll be starving until I get home."
You are allowed to double up on helpings of fruit and vegetables, but can't purchase an additional entree, Vetter said.
Gonzales said he had to reorder smaller portions of pizza dough from one of his vendors to meet the same rule.
For the fruit and vegetable requirement, there will ultimately be monitoring in school lunch lines to make sure kids are putting the requisite items on their plates.
Caleb Harris, principal at Oakdale Heights Elementary School in Dallas, said the requirement will be far harder to implement at middle and high schools, which usually have food-court type lunch setups
During a recent lunch period at Oakdale Heights, children had more fruits and vegetables than other foods on their trays.
"We spend a lot of time talking about eating habits in classrooms," Harris said.
It costs roughly $2.20 to produce the average school lunch at Central. While there's an additional 6 cents per meal being provided per reimbursements, it will probably cost Central an additional 12 cents to make middle and high school lunches now, Vetter said.
A caveat to the fruits and veggie standards is that students won't be required to eat it. Central and Dallas district officials acknowledged there will be some food waste.
"I think kids will take vegetables after being told to and then they'll throw it away," said David Rothweiler, a Central junior. "If they didn't want to put it on their plates in the first place, why would they bother eating it?"
* Every meal will consist of five basic food groups: grains, meat or meat alternates (cheese or soy), fruit, vegetables and milk. For a meal to be considered a student meal -- and for a school to receive its federal reimbursement -- the student must select three of the five components.
* Students must take a full serving of fruit or vegetables -- or a combination equaling a serving -- in order for a school district to be reimbursed for meals. The students don't have to eat the food. Serving size depends on the grade: K-8, 1/2 cup of fruit or 3/4 cup of vegetables; high school students, 1 cup of fruit or vegetables.
* Ranch dressing was eliminated as a condiment from the elementary menu starting this year to reduce the amount of sodium and saturated fat in diets and to meet USDA nutritional guidelines.
* Legumes -- black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans -- will be offered as a side or as part of an entree once a week.
-- Source: Dallas School District