Oglethorpe Exceeding School Lunch Guidelines

March 17th, 2014 | By Marjie No Comments

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Chances are, you have noticed some big changes in the food offered at your school cafeteria! In 2010, the United States Dietary Association (USDA) implemented new nutrition standards for school cafeterias via the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. This act has put $4.5 billion into creating wholesome breakfast and lunch menus for millions of students nationwide, to be implemented by Fall 2014. The main requirements are to use more whole grained foods, offer at least one serving of a dark green vegetable, an orange vegetable, and a bean per day, and to offer low-fat dairy products. Calorie, salt, sugar and saturated fat are limited based on a student’s age group. Even though some of these standards will not be fully implemented until next fall, Oglethorpe County took the initiative to follow the guidelines this year in an effort to improve the health of its students.

We asked Irene Pugh, Oglethorpe County school nutrition director, to share with us some of her thoughts about the changes.  She was proud that Oglethorpe County has already implemented the changes, but she acknowledged that some students and parents were not excited about the changes at first.

“We had a lot of calls from parents at the beginning of the school year because the students were telling them they were hungry because there wasn’t enough to eat, but in reality there was more food.  Since we Offer Versus Serve (student choice) in all four of our schools, the students were not picking up those green and orange items that they didn’t like. After talking with the parents and explaining what we actually offer, they understood a lot better and have become very supportive of our program.”

Nationwide, cafeterias have been struggling with the new standards because students are hungry when it comes time for after-school activities. In order to combat complaints, Congress recently passed revisions to increase meat and grain portion sizes. This adjustment to the program went into effect this year.

I was a teenager not so long ago and I know how important school lunch is to students! An exciting development that Pugh shared is Oglethorpe County’s plan to offer some taste tests to students in the coming weeks to expose them to new recipes. They also have found ways to incorporate healthy ingredients like black and garbanzo beans into some of their recipes.

Although these changes may seem controversial to some, the USDA and Oglethorpe County hope to kick-start more nutritious meals to enable kids to live a more healthy lifestyle.

To find out more on healthy eating, visit www.choosemyplate.gov and www.usda.org.

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