Positive changes coming to school meals
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
New national guidelines start this school year
Schools have been busier than ever this summer preparing for the exciting changes in school meals that will go into effect when children come back to school. School meals will be even healthier with more fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods.
"Local school districts have been creative in preparing for the changes since we want the meals to be healthy and tasty for kids," said Wendy Weyer, Seattle Public Schools Nutrition Director. "The new meals changes will help our students be at their best in the classroom and provide fuel needed to be physically active."
All school districts in King County are implementing the new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requirements that include offering more variety and servings of fruits and vegetables. Students will need to take a half of a cup of fruit or vegetable for a complete meal. Meals will vary in size to meet calorie needs based on grade levels.
With the first major changes in school meals in over 30 years, schools participating in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs will now offer:
- A greater variety of fresh fruits and vegetables every day
- More whole grain rich foods, such as bread and pasta
- Low-fat milk, water and 100% fruit and vegetable juices
- Lower salt (sodium) options
Local school districts lead the way
With support from the Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) grant, a group of school district nutrition service directors from Seattle, Highline, Renton, Kent, Auburn, Federal Way and Northshore have collaborated to make the transition successful. These districts have already been serving whole grains, lower fat and lower salt foods, no trans fat and fresh fruit and vegetables over the past few years.
To make the successful transition, districts have been working with their own talented staff and other culinary experts. The Highline, Northshore, Kent, Auburn and Federal Way School Districts have consulted with Chef Garrett Berdan who was invited to the White House after helping local schools improve their menu items.
Seattle Public Schools has been working with the Tom Douglas Group to develop new kid-tested menu concepts. They have held family events to taste test menu items, including: Butternut squash curry and chicken with couscous; baked pollack (white fish with tomato topping); cheese enchiladas with homemade chili sauce; chicken and vegetables with noodles and cherry blossom sauce; tabouli salad, fresh greens and focaccia bread; and yogurt fruit parfait.
Renton School District Nutrition Services began working with chefs from the Renton Technical College and their high school nutrition council to develop new menu items to meet the new nutrition standards. "We're excited about providing a wider variety of fruits and vegetables that are packed full of the vitamins and minerals kids need and are essential for a healthy body and mind," said Kira Acker, Nutrition Services Director for the Renton School District."
The CPPW grant funded the Auburn School District's Whole Foods Cooking class "discover. cook. nourish" developed by Cynthia Lair, Cookus Interruptus. Over 400 school cafeteria staff in 12 school districts in King County attended this successful certified training course to help prepare staff for the school meal changes.
"Auburn School District continues to offer whole foods cooking whenever possible to meet the new guidelines and is excited to expose students to new and different fruits and vegetables that will awaken their interest in trying new foods," said Carol Barker, Auburn School District's Child Nutrition Supervisor.
Kent School District has partnered with the Washington State Department of Agriculture to incorporate a greater variety of fresh Washington-grown produce into the foods they serve. They have used taste tests and surveys to gauge student response to new items, and invited farmers in to speak with students about the foods they grow.
"We are excited about the progress made by Kent School District purchasing considerably more Washington-grown produce and developing good working relationships with many local farmers," said Tom Ogg, Food Services Supervisor at Kent School District. Details of the farm to school program are on their website at: www.kent.k12.wa.us/Page/3618.
"Parents can support these important changes by reviewing the choices that will be available and discussing with their kids the required fruit or vegetable that must be on each tray," said Chris Neal, Highline School District's Nutrition Services Director "Parents can encourage their children to try new foods at home and at school."
A new local "New Face of School Food" video and fact sheet are available at: www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/nutrition/schools
More information about the national USDA requirements can be found at: www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/lunch
Providing effective and innovative health and disease prevention services for over 1.9 million residents and visitors of King County, Public Health Seattle & King County works for safer and healthier communities for everyone, every day.