The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act has changed what's being offered for lunch and snacks in Delta County schools. Meats, grains, calories and saturated fats are limited, while students are offered a broader selection of fruits and vegetables.
Transfats are prohibited. Processed foods contain too much sodium, so corn dogs and chicken nuggets are out, despite their popularity with kids. Chocolate chip cookies exceed the limit for saturated fat, so when cookies are offered (once a month) they're oatmeal raisin. The only other desserts on the menu are cinna-sticks, cinnamon bread and Jell-O.
The change in the menu, coupled with a corresponding increase in prices (also attributed to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act) have resulted in an 11 percent decrease in the number of lunches served since school started in August.
"The kids aren't happy," Rhonda Vincent, district food services director, said during a report to the school board in October.
In schools across the county, 8,500 fewer lunches have been sold. Although the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act does not affect breakfast until next year, the sales of those meals are also off by 6 percent or 1,030 meals.
The impact is most keenly felt at the high schools which have open campuses. In Delta in particular, Vincent said, it's easy for the high schoolers to run to Taco Bell for lunch. But that privilege is open only to students who maintain As, Bs and Cs. Now that the first round of grades have come out, Vincent said, not everyone can leave campus.
She also updated school board members on the farm-to-school initiative. This fall she obtained fruits and vegetables from 14 different local farmers and orchards. The Ahlbergs and Dicamillos donated 5,000 ears of sweet corn, and, in the North Fork Valley, students are served beef from Homestead Meats. Financial support from the Western Colorado Food & Ag Council, Slo Foods, Paonia Rotary and Wells Fargo covers the price differential between the school district's bid price and the cost of Homestead's meats.
Board member Kathy Svenson mentioned waste is one of the concerns mentioned on talk shows when the conversation turns to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
"I don't know there's that much more waste, but the kids are trying more stuff," Vincent said in a follow-up phone call.
Each lunch includes five components — main dish (meat), grain, fruit, vegetables and milk. Students must select three components, one of which has to be a fruit or a vegetable. Almost every day they have the choice of a fresh fruit or a canned fruit, as well as two choices of vegetables, most of which are fresh. Green beans and corn are the only canned vegetables offered to students.
With salad, for instance, students often pick out the diced tomatoes and shredded carrots and leave the romaine lettuce behind.
There's a lot more work in preparing and portioning meals as outlined in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, but Vincent said the kitchen ladies are "stepping up to the plate."
While the White House considers schools to be on the "front line" of the national challenge to combat childhood obesity and improve children's overall health, Vincent says she simply hopes for the best.
"Will a healthy lunch compensate for the snacks they grab when they get home from school?" she wonders. By limiting the proteins and grains which can be served at lunch, she's concerned the kids will be famished by the time they get home at the end of the day.
That is indeed the case for one seventh grader at Delta Middle School. "He is just starving when I pick him up from school," his mother said.
But another mother said she appreciated the variety of fresh foods being offered to her young sons.
Serving fresh foods requires a lot more prep time from kitchen staff, but Vincent said, "I've got a great group of ladies and they're stepping up to the plate."blog comments powered by Disqus