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A behind the scenes look at education from pre-K to college in Northeast Ohio

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Will kids like the new food standards or throw the healthy choices in the trash?

In high school, my daily lunch consisted of a milkshake and two chocolate chip cookies.  Sometimes I would add fries if I had enough money. 
That was 15 years ago, and now things have changed since that time. Some schools don’t have fries or even cookies on the school lunch menus.
This year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed a new school meal standard that reduces choices as well as calories and sodium amounts.
But, can they really change these levels to the standards they want?
According to the USDA proposed meal plan students in grades kindergarten through fifth would have a daily sodium intake of 640 with 650 maximum calories.  For middle school students, the average sodium intake would be at 710 and maximum calories 700.  The growing high school students are not that much different with 740 sodium intake and maximum calorie count of 850.
That is over a 50 percent drop from the current daily intake which is between 1300 to 1500 calories.
The goal is to have a 10 year implementation of the plan, which small increments drops must be achieved.
Kelly Minnick, director of nutrition services at Riverside Schools said it has to be bigger than the National School Lunch Program.
“The general population has to get on board with it,” she said. “The food manufactures have to make changes in their products.”
However, will the children get on board with the new standards as well?
Just imagine, an average school lunch – chicken, green beans, baked potatoes, fruit, salad and milk.
According to, an average baked potato is 278 calories, skin, no butter, sour cream; baked chicken breast, 93; steamed frozen green beans, 25; canned peaches 53; mixed vegetable salad no dressing, 17; fat free flavored or non flavored milk 91.
A total of 557 calories would be consumed for this healthy lunch if the child doesn’t choose those any a la carte items, have salad dressing or any fixings on the potato, or take an extra milk carton.
However, the student can choose not to have these healthy items, or may not eat at all.
This is one of the concerns the districts have – will the students eat the healthy menu items provided.
Riverside Schools implemented fat- free milk in their lunchrooms a few years back, and the kids had to get use to the taste.
“It’s a big change, some kids are not use to that,” Minnick said. 
Kirtland Schools Food Service Director Leslie Skinner said the districts have to get much more creative on how we present things to children.
“My concern if we don’t present in a manner the kids would want to eat, it could end up in the trash,” she said.