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.
North Fork Schools are in compliance and ready to go with the new lunch menus. Michael Comanda said he feels like his district was already doing a lot of the things the program is now requiring anyway.
"The cafeteria folks were already working with a wellness committee, serving whole wheat pizza and making sure fresh fruit was available, so we felt like we were a little ahead of the curve when this came out," Comanda said.
In a letter written by Aramark, posted on the website, some changes kids will see include
- More whole grains will be available. Half of the grain items served will be whole grain.
- Students must take at least ½ cup of fruit or vegetable each day.
- Flavored milk will only be available as fat-free or skim. Unflavored or white milk may be skim or one-percent.
- Fewer desserts will be offered. Stronger focus on obtaining calories from fruits, vegetables, protein foods, grains and whole milk.
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, including Greenport, 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.
Plainview editor Joe Dowd and North Fork editor Erin Schultz contributed to this story.