Healthier School Cafeterias
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, championed by first lady Michelle Obama, calls for new federal health regulations in school cafeterias. Under the new regulations, portion sizes vary from grade to grade, with a focus on cutting back on childhood obesity.
The regulations call for daily fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk. Schools must also limit calories based on students’ ages, and reduce saturated, trans fat, and sodium. For instance, kindergartners through fifth-graders can only receive 8 or 9 ounces of grains weekly.
As a result of the new regulations, students who participate in meal programs have seen changes on the school lunch line. For example, Connecticut school districts are offering plenty of nutrient-dense foods, like whole grains and fruits and vegetables. In Meriden, schools are serving whole-grain rolls, stuffed shells, stromboli, and lasagna. In Seymour, schools are offering rainbow vegetable trays that consist of broccoli, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and green peppers.
While the new regulations have resulted in a lot of creativity being involved in preparing school lunch menus, not everyone is happy about the changes. Students are bringing their own lunch, and throwing or giving away the school lunch. There have been complaints about the small size of entrees and the removal of pickle chips, which are high in sodium and low in nutritional value. Students also feel the protein and carbohydrate limitations do not provide enough fuel.
However, according to a food service director for the Meriden public schools, there is no reason for anyone to be going hungry. This is because entrees accompanied by fruits and vegetables are a well-balanced meal with an adequate amount of calories.