Healthier school meals: How 5 districts are faring - WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

Healthier school meals: How 5 districts are faring

Posted: Updated:
Two years in, schools are having mixed success putting new healthier school lunch rules in place.

Some report that students are excited about a variety of healthier options and have barely noticed the changes. Others say some kids are throwing fruits and vegetables away and balking at whole grains.

The requirements are part of a government effort to make school lunches and breakfasts healthier. Championed by first lady Michelle Obama, the new standards have been phased in over the last two school years, with more changes coming in 2014.

Some schools are asking Congress and the Agriculture Department to roll back some of the requirements. Their main concerns: finding enough whole grain-rich foods that kids like, lowering sodium levels and keeping fruits and vegetables from ending up in the trash.

Not all schools are required to follow the requirements, but most do. If they don't, they won't receive government subsidies that partially reimburse schools for free and low-cost lunches for low-income kids.

In Virginia's Alexandria City Public Schools, school nutrition director Becky Domokos-Bays says students have adapted to whole grain rolls and pizza crusts, but have so far rejected whole grain pastas. Starting next school year, pasta and other grain products in schools will have to be whole-grain rich, or more than half whole grain.

Here's how five other school districts are doing:

OHIO: CINCINNATI PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Jessica Shelly, food service director at Cincinnati's urban public schools, says she started serving healthier foods in her lunchrooms years before the government standards were required, so it has been easier for kids to adjust.

She has seen increased participation by enthusiastically highlighting the new menus with kids. She says salad bars with lots of variety - pickle slices, banana peppers, different kinds of beans, for example - give kids healthy options and also the sense that they are creating their own meals.

And as the standards require reduced sodium, she has set up a "spice bar" with seasonings like lemon pepper, garlic herb and cumin to make foods more flavorful.

GEORGIA: WARE COUNTY SCHOOL SYSTEM

In rural Southeast Georgia, Stephanie Taylor, director of school nutrition for the Ware County School System, says she doesn't have much of a selection from food service vendors. She has had a hard time finding tasty whole grain rich biscuits and grits, and would like to occasionally serve the white flour versions. Starting this fall, she won't be able to do that.

Taylor agrees that school lunches needed improvement and says kids have been more accepting as industry has formulated better tasting healthy foods.

She worries, however, that negative publicity about the revised menus may make kids less likely to try them. Unhealthy eating patterns outside of school make her job harder as well.

"If kids aren't eating this way at home how can we force them to eat like this in school?" she asks.

NEW MEXICO: ROSWELL INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT

Lyman Graham, director of student nutrition for Roswell and two other New Mexico school districts, says one of the biggest problems has been finding whole grain rich tortillas that kids will eat. Like Taylor in rural Georgia, he doesn't have a lot of vendors to choose from, and he says the whole wheat tortillas he can get are slimy and don't hold up. So he's had to take popular breakfast burritos and wraps off his menus.

He says he's had more luck with whole wheat bread, which the kids haven't complained about as much.

KANSAS: WALLACE COUNTY SCHOOLS

The tiny Wallace County school district made headlines in 2012 when students and teachers put together a video called "We Are Hungry" - set to the tune of the popular song "We Are Young" by the group Fun. - in which kids pretended to pass out from hunger because of the new standards.

The students' main concern was maximum requirements on proteins and grains. After hearing the same complaint from many schools across the country, USDA scrapped those requirements.

Teacher Linda O'Connor, who helped produce the video, says her district has a high percentage of athletes and that was part of the reason kids were so hungry. She says she still hears some complaints, but kids are generally less hungry since the standards were relaxed.

NEW JERSEY: WEST NEW YORK SCHOOL DISTRICT

Sal Valenza, food service director for West New York, says he got students involved early, hosting a healthier food fair so they could sample new items when the district put in a healthier school lunch menu more than five years ago.

The school also has what he calls a "harvest bar," with locally-grown fruits and vegetables, and the district has taken chips out of elementary schools.

He says he disagrees with efforts to roll some of the standards back.

"It's not a good message to send," he said. "It's like telling the kids we don't value your health. As adults, we fear change more than they do."
  • College football game day means big business in the Low Country

    College football game day means big business in the Low Country

    Saturday, August 30 2014 10:52 PM EDT2014-08-31 02:52:16 GMT
    Clemson's season opener ended not long ago, with the 16th ranked Tigers taking on number 12 Georgia. In the Low Country, these games also mean big business for local sports bars, and for stores that sell sports merchandise. "It has been busy from what I can see." Danielle Glassberg says when she married her husband; she was also married into the Clemson football fan base."We are buying our Clemson shirts for the season. We are going to a game in a couple of weeks so we need to make sure we ar...
    Clemson's season opener ended not long ago, with the 16th ranked Tigers taking on number 12 Georgia. In the Low Country, these games also mean big business for local sports bars, and for stores that sell sports merchandise. "It has been busy from what I can see." Danielle Glassberg says when she married her husband; she was also married into the Clemson football fan base."We are buying our Clemson shirts for the season. We are going to a game in a couple of weeks so we need to make sure we ar...
  • Dispatch confirms a crews are responding to a fire at McCrady's

    Fire reported at popular downtown restaurant

    Fire reported at popular downtown restaurant

    Saturday, August 30 2014 10:04 PM EDT2014-08-31 02:04:37 GMT
    Fire crews are responding to a fire at McCrady's on East Bay Street. Dispatch tells News 2 that the fire was called in alittle after 2:30 p.m. News 2 has a crew on the way.
    Fire crews are responding to a fire at McCrady's on East Bay Street. Dispatch tells News 2 that the fire was called in alittle after 2:30 p.m. News 2 has a crew on the way.
  • Pedestrians seriously hurt

    Man arrested for a hit-and-run accident on Folly Beach

    Man arrested for a hit-and-run accident on Folly Beach

    Saturday, August 30 2014 6:45 PM EDT2014-08-30 22:45:32 GMT
    The Charleston County Sheriff's Office said Andrew Robert Lanzaro was arrested on Saturday morning, after he reportedly struck two pedestrians and fled the scene at about 2:15 a.m. The incident happened on West Ashley Avenue between 2nd and 3rd Street. Two people werestruck by a 2004 Honda CRV, when itswerved off the road. Authorities said the car,which belongs to Lanzaro,was located by the Folly Beach Police Department at his residence. The vehicle had severe front end damage to the windshie...
    The Charleston County Sheriff's Office said Andrew Robert Lanzaro was arrested on Saturday morning, after he reportedly struck two pedestrians and fled the scene at about 2:15 a.m. The incident happened on West Ashley Avenue between 2nd and 3rd Street. Two people werestruck by a 2004 Honda CRV, when itswerved off the road. Authorities said the car,which belongs to Lanzaro,was located by the Folly Beach Police Department at his residence. The vehicle had severe front end damage to the windshie...
Powered by WorldNow

210 W. Coleman Blvd.
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464

Telephone: 843.216.4875
Fax: 843.881.3410
Email: news@wcbd.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.