The Edmond Sun

November 9, 2012

New food requirements more costly to school district

More fruits, veggies on students’ plates

Patty Miller
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Child Nutrition Director Dan Lindsey explained the new Child Nutrition guidelines put in place by the federal government to Edmond Board of Education members Monday night saying the menus are diversified yet mainstream — not fast food, but what you would find in a restaurant.

Edmond is progressive from the standpoint of how they prepare their food, Lindsey said as the district turns to more made-from-scratch menu items.

In addition to changes in the 2010 My Plate government recommendations, obesity and hunger are the two issues being addressed by child nutrition directors across the nation.

The two differences in the My Plate program when comparing this year to last is the plates must include more vegetables and fruits and the size of each serving also has increased. Weekly vegetable sub-groups include more colors with limits on meats, proteins, breads and grains.

“All schools model their menus after the My Plate recommendations,” Lindsay said.

Lindsey said the My Plate marketing explains the food groups as follows, 1/4 of the plate is protein (and a serving has been reduced to 2 ounces), 1/4 is bread and 1/2 is fruits and vegetables.

“The kids used to have no limit on meats, cheeses and breads, as long as you stayed within the calorie limits,” Lindsey said.

He added the district has tighter oversight on assessment of calories, fat and saturated fat.

“The things we are looking at more closely have always been there but now everyone is paying closer attention,” Lindsey said.

Lindsey said that 1.67 million lunches were served during the 2011-12 academic year and if the lunch menu is certified the district receives 6 cents from federal funds for each meal.

According to federal guidelines, the district has added a second fruit serving to the lunch menu at an additional cost of $250,000 more than last year’s budget.

“Of that amount $100,000 is funded by the federal government but $150,000 is not,” Lindsey said. “Our challenge is how do we go from compliance and balance it with acceptance from our customers?”

Or, in other words, how is the district going to fulfill government mandates and still get the students to eat their meals?

He added that although 300 additional lunches and 100 breakfasts are being served each day in the district, the student participation rate is still around 44 percent.

District works toward compliance, acceptance of menus

Lindsey said lunches must stay in the recommended calorie range, which is 550 to 650 calories for Kindergarten through fifth-grade, 600 to 700 calories for grades 6-8 and 750 to 850 calories for grades 9-12.

“Right now we are working toward the sodium limit that will be placed on meals and that will go into effect in 10 years,” Lindsey said. “As manufacturers adapt (to the way in which they prepare food products) we will be able to get those items down.

District Dietitian Amy Herrold has been working with cafeteria supervisors to make sure each the menus are fully certified, and Lindsey said beginning with the Oct. 1 menu the meals have all been tested and certified.

“We ask ourselves is it nutritionally the best meal we can offer, and do the children eat the whole meal?” Lindsey said.

Lindsey said he and Herrold are looking for more feedback from children and the district menu advisory committee.  

“Everything we change off of the menu has to be replaced with something that is compliant,” Lindsey said, “and we must keep in mind what can be logistically prepared in one day as we move toward more from made-from-scratch cooked items.”

He added it was the responsibility of the cafeteria workers working with the Child Nutrition department to present the meal in an appealing way.

“Our responsibility is presentation and customer service,” Lindsey said. “The ladies in the school make it work.”

Implementing health curriculum next step

Part of the goal of the Child Nutrition department includes implementation of health curriculum.

Associate Superintendent of Educational Services Tara Fair said Thursday the middle school curriculum implementation had been distributed to the principals that morning, and the three-day curriculum will be taught through the science classes.

In kindergarten through fifth-grade, Fair said the health books are good, but the Food Pyramid needs to be updated with the My Plate portions. Ninth-grade health curriculum begins second semester.

“By the end of the school year elementary through ninth-grade curriculum should be going and taught with fidelity,” Fair said.

Some high school students get to leave campus, Lindsey said, and they have more freedom to decline items when going through the cafeteria line.

High school students only have to take three of five offerings, but one of the choices must be a fruit or vegetable for the district to receive reimbursement for free and reduced lunches.

“If the student is unwilling to do that, then their lunch will be purchased a la carte and they will end up paying more,” Lindsey said.

“Now that we are compliant, we can hone in on what students want,” Fair added.

School board member Leanne Kuhlman said the Board of Education’s goal is to have all of the food that is offered to also be eaten by students instead of wasting it. The Child Nutrition department has the same goal, Lindsey added.