You'll still find pizzatas, nachos, and chicken nuggets on the menu, along with more healthy-sounding choices like chef salad, broccoli and fruit. What's changing?
According to Hollidaysburg Area School District Food Service Director Betsy Snyder, "one of the greatest examples is pizza. In the past, students were able to take a piece of pizza and a milkand that was a reimbursable meal. This year, they're going to have to add a fruit or vegetable to that."
And they'll be offered up to a cup of that fruit or vegetable, double what they received last year. Students taking only a piece of pizza and milk will be charged the higher a la cart price.
Snyder, a dietitian, started adding whole grains to the Hollidayburg cafeteria pizzas a couple of years ago. The new rules require that at least half of the grains served be whole grains. Students must also be offered dark green, red or orange fruits or vegetables, and beans or peas.
Snyder says, "we have been gradually offering the beans. We have been gradually offering the dark green, leafy vegetables, the orange vegetables."
At Altoona Regional Health System, Dietitian Randy Grabill says, "we like the nutrition principles it espouses, but the real issue then, will be from the practical standoint, will children eat these lunches, because of the extra fruits and vegetables and whole grains they may not be used to eating at home?"
The new rules require fat-free or low-fat milk, and the minimum amount of calories students must be offered has been lowered.
Snyder hopes that because of the gradual changes over the past couple of years, students won't notice much of a difference,
But there may be more push-back from older kids. "You're talking to seniors in high school and and all of a sudden you're going to dictate to them how much they're gonna eat in terms of fruits and vegetables and calories and that will be an extra challenge," Grabill says.
While the rules do require kids to take a fruit or vegetable for a cheaper lunch, they're not required to eat them.
The new nutrition standards also require no trans fats per serving of food, compared to no limits before. Also, in 2014 schools will have to keep sodium at a prescribed level, and eventually it will be cut in half.