Caitlin, left, and Erica, right, said they are excited to have a wider variety of vegetables in their lunches. (CLICK ON PICTURE ABOVE TO VIEW MORE PHOTOS)
Healthier lunches coming to students
Don't like fruits and veggies? Well, too bad, says Seattle Public Schools to students K-12.
At least, SPS is going to require students take a 1/2 cup serving of fruits and vegetables with their lunch, following the new guidelines of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and helping create for students a healthier, more balanced meal. It is just one change in a series that will be taking place, causing for the most dramatic change in school lunches in over 31 years.
Really, students can just sluff off the fruits and vegetables into the garbage can if they are truly so against eating healthy. But the hope is that if they have it on their tray, they will eat it, said Wendy Weyer, director of SPS Nutrition Services. Since it is only the second day of school, though, she said there is no way of telling yet if there will actually be any increase in consuming more healthy foods.
Several other changes will be also be taking effect and will be phased in over the next several years, Weyer said. In the next year, 50 percent of all grains will have to be whole grain, she said, and in two years that will be jumped up to 100 percent. That'll mean white bread and over-buttered sweet rolls are not long for the world of school lunch rooms.
SPS will also be trying to incorporate a wider variety of vegetables into meals, incorporating the "colors of the rainbow" -- greens, reds, yellows, oranges and more -- as to provide students with the benefit of a range of nutrients. Students will also have the choice to get a 1/2 cup of legumes (black beans, kidney beans, etc.) for their vegetables.
More goals that the schools will be trying to reach are limiting sugar and sodium intake, relying less on processed foods and more on "cooked from scratch" foods, providing more whole grains and fewer starches, tighter rules on individual serving sizes of grains and proteins and giving portion sizes based on grade level (K-5, 6-8, 9-12).
Weyer said she did not know what effect the changes will have on the school budget. She did say that SPS has already been in the process of incorporating more fruits and vegetables and so, as far as produce goes, there won't be much fluctuation in prices based on the rules. Based on the season or climate, however -- this summer has seen record heat and droughts all around America -- prices can vary. In any case, don't expect school meals to revert back to the old, more relaxed guidelines. Since it is mandated by the federal government, the changes are here to stay.
In the lunch room at the Greenwood Elementary on Thursday, Sept. 6, children were generally uncomplaining. Some said they were excited, while others just shrugged and said they didn't mind. One student, Max, expressed a little bit more enthusiasm.
"Your food is awesome!" he exclaimed to a cafeteria worker.
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