Hold the fries New school lunch guidelines coming

By on April 27, 2011

Students at Cocalico High School, like all students across the country, will be faced with healthier food options at lunch time thanks to a federally-mandated program. Salad is just one choice Cocalico students have when it comes to fighting back against childhood obesity. (Photos by Preston Whitcraft)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently unveiled new nutritional standards for school lunches that could go into effect as early as the fall of the 2011-12 school year. Stemming from President Barack Obama s Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, which aims to reduce both childhood hunger and obesity, the department has proposed sweeping nutritional standard changes for school lunches. The rules will affect about 30 million school lunches served in America each school day. As the first major overhaul of school-served lunches since 1996, it is not without controversy. The proposed changes will add more vegetables, whole grains and fat-free and low-fat milk to school meals based on recommendations released by the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine. Schools would also be required to limit the levels of saturated fat, sodium, calories and trans fat in meals. Gone will be the days of pizza, hot dogs and tator tots, and in its place will be whole wheat pizza with turkey pepperoni, chef salad and steamed broccoli. Chris Dunn, director of food services at Cocalico School District, said he believes school lunch is the best choice for students. He explained that Cocalico s school lunch meals are healthy, food safe and economical. Since July 2006, Cocalico has followed a Wellness Action Plan, Dunn said. The plan includes healthier meal options, such as offering whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables. He said that a number of the healthy choice items are less expensive than their counterparts. Another aspect of the Wellness Action Plan trains staff and involves students, Dunn said. Student council may review products and aid in menu planning. Also making it easier for students to make healthier decisions is access to nutritional information. Calorie and allergy information can be found on the school s website at cocalico.org/supportservices. While Dunn stressed that the district will do what they can to help fight childhood obesity, he acknowledged that the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act will meet many challenges. In addition to many other changes, the act calls for reduced sodium in school meals within the next 10 years. Because the main contributor to school meals is the U.S.D.A. commodity program, major commodity manufacturers need to get on board and produce foods and provide products we can serve, Dunn said. Ideally, the 10 year phase gives manufacturers time to reformulate student favorites but Dunn has his doubts. Why make it if no one will eat it? he pointed out. Reformulating existing menu items also comes with a hefty price tag. The cost of a school meal increases from year to year by about 10 cents in the district, Dunn said. We will price ourselves out of business, he said. As a self-funded entity within the school district, food services receives nothing from the general fund.

With the economy the way it is and fuel prices consistently rising, Dunn said he worries that school lunches will no longer be an affordable option which could have devastating affects for some students. Sometimes it is the only meal students receive each day, he said. Because of this, Dunn said, the the district is committed to meeting the mandates head-on. More LUNCHES, page A11

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