Schools increase focus on fresh produce

08/30/2012 03:49:00 PM
Tom Karst

Updated nutrition guidelines are dramatically increasing demand for some fresh produce items and are transforming school lunches for nearly 32 million students.

While cost and student acceptance of increased servings of fruit and vegetables are concerns, school foodservice directors were positive about the new guidelines.

Schools in Emporia, Kan., are using about three times as much fresh produce as last year at the same time, said Jill Vincent, school foodservice director for the Emporia school district, with 4,600 students. “Our coolers are filled to the roof of produce that we are purchasing.”

Vincent said students are taking and eating the fruits and vegetables.

“That’s the goal of this, and that’s a good thing.” she said.

fruits and vegetables on school salad barFile photoThe updated school lunch rules are the first change in the standards in 15 years, implemented as a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

In January, first lady Michelle Obama announced the school meal nutrition standards, and the new rules went into effect in July. In August, the first lady issued a video encouraging kids to embrace the new school meal plan.

The new standards increased requirements for fruits and vegetables in school lunches from the previous one-half to three-fourths of a cup (combined) per day to the new requirement of three-fourths to one cup of vegetables plus one-half to one cup of fruit per day.

The regulations also say that children must take at least one serving of fruits or vegetables for the meal to be reimbursable.

According to the regulations, schools must offer a wide variety of vegetables, including a weekly serving of dark green and red/orange vegetables and legumes. Other provisions said that no more than 10% of calories can come from saturated fat and that schools must eliminate added trans-fat. The regulations require reduced sodium levels and increased whole grain bread requirements over time.

With the school year just beginning in some parts of the country, it is too early to judge the effect of the new rules, said Cathy Schuchart, vice president of child nutrition and policy for the National Harbor, Md.-based School Nutrition Association.

“What we have been hearing is that people are adapting to the challenges and the changes,” she said Aug. 30. “The attitude is extremely positive but there are some hurdles.”


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produce guy    
usa  |  August, 31, 2012 at 09:26 AM

Because of the program my child and the teaching staff cannot have cheese on their hamburgers! "To much protein says Mrs. Obama"! Produce is great for our kids but you cant take away items because of the calorie and protein counts! Mine comes home hungry!

Jennifer    
Washington State  |  August, 31, 2012 at 09:49 AM

It's much more likely the concern is fat, not protein. Cheese & hamburger is a double fat whammy for the arteries, not to mention the fanny.

suzanne jones    
Iowa  |  August, 31, 2012 at 09:46 AM

I work in a high school in Altoona Iowa. I thought maybe the children would not care for the new regulations and we have issues. But much to my surprise it hasn't been an issue. We go through lettuce like crazy every day. And six forty pound boxes of bananas last only 2 days. We have cut the fat a little. We offer low fat cheese but took away

sdhayes    
Leesburg GA  |  August, 31, 2012 at 10:36 AM

Overall this has been a positive change. Most of our high school students are loading up their trays with fruits and vegetables. The biggest complaint is from the football players who are hungry after getting 2 ounces of protein. Students are upset about not getting macaroni and cheese or cheese grits because the cheese is counted as a protein and it would take away from the already small portion of meat.

Damian Solomon    
California  |  August, 31, 2012 at 12:05 PM

Fresh fruits and veggies are much more nutrient dense than most processed foods in our schools today. Which means that fruits/veggies will make the kids feel "fuller" longer than eating a hamburger with cheese. There should be no complaints of kids being hungry after 2 hours of eating lunch. This country is experiencing an obesity pandemic, and its attributed to over eating of processed food that offers ZERO nutrion. Do you really think that one slice of a processed cheese product (that is not even really cheese at all) is making our kids healthy and feel satisfied?

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