Schools Seek Changes to Healthier Lunch Rules - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Schools Seek Changes to Healthier Lunch Rules

Posted: Updated:
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP)-  Starting next school year, pasta and other grain products in schools will have to be whole-grain rich, or more than half whole grain. That includes rolls, biscuits, pizza crust, tortillas and even grits. The requirement is 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.

However, some schools say the changes have been expensive and difficult to put in place, and school officials 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.

In interviews, school nutrition directors across the country mostly agreed that healthy changes were needed in school lunches - long famous for daily servings of greasy fries and pizza. Kids have adapted easily to many of the changes, are getting more variety in the lunch line and are eating healthier.

But Domokos-Bays and other school nutrition directors say the standards were put in place too quickly as kids get used to new tastes and school lunch vendors rush to reformulate their foods. When kids don't buy lunch, or throw it away, it costs the schools precious dollars.

"The regulations are so prescriptive, so it's difficult to manage not only the nutrition side of your businesses but the business side of your business," Domokos-Bays said.

Some of the main challenges reported by school nutrition directors:

-Whole grains. While many kids have adapted to whole grain rolls, breads and even pizza crusts, some schools are having problems with whole grain-rich pastas, which can cook differently. USDA's Janey Thornton, a former school nutrition director, says the government is working with the food industry to develop better pastas.

Whole grains have also proved a hard sell for some popular regional items, like biscuits and grits in the South. Lyman Graham of the Roswell, New Mexico, school district says tortillas are one of the most popular foods in his area, but the whole wheat flour versions are "going in the trash."

-Sodium. Schools will have to lower the total sodium levels in school meals next school year and then will have to lower them even further by 2017.

School lunch directors say the 2017 target - 640 milligrams total in an elementary school lunch and 740 milligrams in a high school lunch - isn't feasible and say kids will reject the foods. USDA's Thornton acknowledges the food industry isn't there yet but encourages frustrated school lunch directors to "worry about today first before we imagine the worst down the road."

-Fruits and vegetables. The standards require every student to take a fruit or vegetable to create a balanced plate. The reaction among students has been mixed. "If the kids don't eat the food, then all I have is healthy trash cans," said Peggy Lawrence, director of nutrition at the Rockdale County Public Schools in Georgia.

-Healthier snacks. Schools will for the first time this year have to make sure that all foods, including vending machines and a la carte lines, meet healthier standards. While many schools have already moved to make snacks healthier, others depend on snack money to help operate their lunchrooms and are worried about a sales dip.

The School Nutrition Association has asked Congress and USDA to only require that 50 percent of foods be whole grain-rich, to suspend the 2017 sodium requirements and to stop requiring students to take a fruit or vegetable.

Margo Wootan, a nutrition lobbyist for the Center for Science in the Public Interest who has pushed for healthier meals, says relaxing those standards could gut the program. "You can't call a meal a meal without a fruit or vegetable," she said.

USDA has shown some flexibility already: In 2012, the department scrapped maximums on proteins and grains after students complained they were hungry.

USDA's Thornton says problems will lessen as the food industry creates healthier products. "I'll bet that five or seven years down the road, we'll see kids eating healthy food and we'll see acceptance," she said.

Republicans say they may intervene before then. Alabama Rep. Robert Aderholt, the Republican in charge of the House spending committee overseeing USDA, has said school districts need a "pause" while problems are worked out.

Aderholt's panel is expected to release a new spending bill this month that may propose changes. Republicans also are eying the next five-year renewal of the school foods policy, due in 2015.

Sam Kass, senior policy adviser for nutrition at the White House, said last month that there have been "tremendous gains" in school foods and said he finds efforts to undermine that disappointing. "First and foremost, the key is not going back," he said.

At Alexandria's Patrick Henry Elementary last Tuesday, students said they loved their lunches and gobbled up plump strawberries. Kindergartner Jade Kennedy said she recently tried kiwi at school for the first time.

But Domokos-Bays said she will serve white pasta to the students until she has to make the change this summer. Tuesday was pasta day, and several children said it was their favorite lunch - "better than my mom made," first-grader Ruth Gebregiorgis said.

  • Delmarvawide NewsDelmarvawide NewsMore>>

  • Local Volunteer Organization Making a Change

    Local Volunteer Organization Making a Change

    07/24/2017 20:04:00 -04:002017-07-25 00:04:00 GMT
    Monday, July 24 2017 8:34 PM EDT2017-07-25 00:34:33 GMT
    Pile of clothes being assorted before deliveryPile of clothes being assorted before delivery
    "Clothing Our Kids," a local volunteer run organization that had its start in a home, has grown, and is making a significant impact on Sussex County. The charity collects and donates clothing to 33 elementary schools for children K-5.More
    "Clothing Our Kids," a local volunteer run organization that had its start in a home, has grown, and is making a significant impact on Sussex County. The charity collects and donates clothing to 33 elementary schools for children K-5.More
  • U.S. Ag Secretary Visits Delaware State Fair

    U.S. Ag Secretary Visits Delaware State Fair

    Monday, July 24 2017 8:27 PM EDT2017-07-25 00:27:20 GMT
    Monday, July 24 2017 8:27 PM EDT2017-07-25 00:27:20 GMT
    HARRINGTON, Del. -- U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue visited the Delaware State Fair on Monday, visiting a number of young growers and farmers from the region.Perdue, a former governor of Georgia with no relation to the chicken company prevalent oMore
    HARRINGTON, Del. -- U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue visited the Delaware State Fair on Monday, visiting a number of young growers and farmers from the region.Perdue, a former governor of Georgia with no relation to the chicken company prevalent oMore
  • Tornado Destroys Homes in Stevensville

    Tornado Destroys Homes in Stevensville

    Monday, July 24 2017 7:24 PM EDT2017-07-24 23:24:10 GMT
    Monday, July 24 2017 7:24 PM EDT2017-07-24 23:24:10 GMT
    Several homes in the Bay City area of Stevensville were left extremely damaged after a tornado.More
    Several homes in the Bay City area of Stevensville were left extremely damaged after a tornado.More
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Salisbury Man Sentenced to 25 Years After Third Felony Drug Conviction

    Salisbury Man Sentenced to 25 Years After Third Felony Drug Conviction

    Thursday, July 23 2015 12:15 PM EDT2015-07-23 16:15:04 GMT
    Thursday, July 23 2015 12:48 PM EDT2015-07-23 16:48:44 GMT
    A Salisbury man convicted last month of cocaine possession and “maintaining a common nuisance” has been sentenced to 25 years without parole, the Wicomico County State's Attorney's Office announced Thursday.More
    A Salisbury man convicted last month of cocaine possession and “maintaining a common nuisance” has been sentenced to 25 years without parole, the Wicomico County State's Attorney's Office announced Thursday.More
  • Updated: Queen Anne's County Tornado Confirmed

    Damage, Power Outages Reported After Maryland Severe Weather

    07/24/2017 07:59:00 -04:002017-07-24 11:59:00 GMT
    Monday, July 24 2017 3:29 PM EDT2017-07-24 19:29:58 GMT
    A large tree fell on this house in Stevensville, Md. during an overnight severe storm that passed through the area. (Photo:  Frank Tedesco/ Atlantic City Electric)A large tree fell on this house in Stevensville, Md. during an overnight severe storm that passed through the area. (Photo: Frank Tedesco/ Atlantic City Electric)
    A National Weather Service team has confirmed an EF2 tornado touched down in Queen Anne's County on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The tornado downed trees, damaged homes, and knocked out power out for thousands.More
    A National Weather Service team has confirmed an EF2 tornado touched down in Queen Anne's County on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The overnight weather event downed trees, damaged homes, and knocked out power out for thousands.More
  • Police Searching for Wanted Man in Laurel

    Police Searching for Wanted Man in Laurel

    Monday, July 24 2017 3:32 PM EDT2017-07-24 19:32:32 GMT
    Monday, July 24 2017 3:32 PM EDT2017-07-24 19:32:32 GMT
    Michael K. WashingtonMichael K. Washington
    Delaware State Police are asking for the public's help in locating a local man for assault and other charges.More
    Delaware State Police are asking for the public's help in locating a local man for assault and other charges.More
  • Most Popular VideosMost Popular VideosMore>>

  • Tornado Destroys Homes in Stevensville

    Tornado Destroys Homes in Stevensville

    Several homes in the Bay City area of Stevensville were left extremely damaged after a tornado.

    More

    Several homes in the Bay City area of Stevensville were left extremely damaged after a tornado.

    More
  • Damage, Power Outages Reported in Queen Anne's Co. After Severe Weather

    Damage, Power Outages Reported in Queen Anne's Co. After Severe Weather

    A National Weather Service team is headed to Maryland's Eastern Shore to determine whether a tornado touched down there.

    The weather service says the team is headed to Queen Anne's County on Monday to assess damage from the early morning storm that downed trees, collapsed buildings and knocked out power to thousands overnight in the Stevensville area of Kent Island. County officials say one person was injured but those injuries were not life-threatening.

    More

    A National Weather Service team is headed to Maryland's Eastern Shore to determine whether a tornado touched down there.

    The weather service says the team is headed to Queen Anne's County on Monday to assess damage from the early morning storm that downed trees, collapsed buildings and knocked out power to thousands overnight in the Stevensville area of Kent Island. County officials say one person was injured but those injuries were not life-threatening.

    More
  • Wicomico Weighs In On Start Of School Year

    Wicomico Weighs In On Start Of School Year

    Maryland governor Larry Hogan's executive order puts the start of the state's school year after Labor Day, giving families a longer summer, but individual school districts can ask for a waiver.  Wicomico County has a couple of days left to add their vote.

    More

    Maryland governor Larry Hogan's executive order puts the start of the state's school year after Labor Day, giving families a longer summer, but individual school districts can ask for a waiver.  Wicomico County has a couple of days left to add their vote.

    More
Powered by Frankly

All content © Copyright 2000 - 2017 WBOC. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices