Chippewa Valley Axes Pepperoni on Pizza, L'Anse Creuse Limits Sodium in School Lunches

The United States Department of Agriculture has set new requirements for public school lunches that will alter the foods students will be served in cafeterias this year.

Schools nationwide will be serving healthier lunches this year.

Chippewa Valley Schools and L’Anse Creuse Public Schools are no exception. Like other districts across the country, they will implement new guidelines set by the United States Department of Agriculture this year that aim to improve the quality of school lunches by increasing their nutritional value.

“The focus is really to get schools to move with using whole-grain products and to make sure they’re serving healthier portion sizes of the higher-calorie items like meat and meat alternates and increase on fruit and vegetables,” said Teresa Arnold, Sodexo school services general manager for LCPS.

School lunches are now separated into five components: meats/meat alternates, grains, fruits, vegetables and milk. A student must take three of the five components for it to be considered a meal, and one of those components must be at least one serving of a fruit or vegetable.

Chippewa Valley students will notice a slight change in menu options this year compared to past years, said Cindy VanWormer, food service department director for the district.

“Menus are now age appropriate where calories are concerned,” VanWormer said, comparing this year to the past, when the same meal may have been offered to both middle and high school students. “We are still trying to serve what the kids like the best, but it might have to be tweaked a bit.”

The new rules will also reduce sodium and saturated fat levels in school meals.

Pizza will still be on the lunch menu at Chippewa Valley schools, but will not be topped with pepperoni because the saturated fat content is too high, VanWormer noted.

Additionally, the USDA has regulated the minimum and maximum amounts of certain meal components that schools can give to each student:

Kindergarten-Grade 5:

  • Fruits: ½ cup minimum per day
  • Vegetables: ¾ cup minimum per day
  • Grains: 8-9 ounces per week
  • Meats/meat alternates: 8-10 ounces per week
  • Calories: 550-650 calories per lunch
  • Trans fat: 0 trans fat

Grades 6-8:

  • Fruits: ½ cup minimum per day
  • Vegetables: ¾ cup minimum per day
  • Grains: 8-10 ounces per week
  • Meats/meat alternates: 9-10 ounces per week
  • Calories: 600-700 calories per lunch
  • Trans fat: 0 trans fat

Grades 9-12:

  • Fruits: 1 cup minimum per day
  • Vegetables: 1 cup minimum per day
  • Grains: 10-12 ounces per week
  • Meats/meat alternates: 10-12 ounces per week
  • Calories: 750-850 calories per lunch
  • Trans fat: 0 trans fat

Preparing students for menu changes

Arnold said some of the changes were introduced last year in the 16 L’Anse Creuse schools that participate in the USDA’s National School Lunch Program to help students adjust to the new standards.

“This past school year, we began implementing some changes so there wouldn’t be such a huge difference when the kids walked in and so it would be an easier transition for them,” she said.

At Chippewa, changes were not officially implemented last year, but the district did run test trials with students to see what they thought of the new food options.

“We ran some taste tests with students in all grades and basically found that anything with black beans the kids were not fond of,” VanWormer said. “But, unfortunately, black beans and legumes are a requirement and there are only so many types you can serve.”

VanWormer said she hopes that introducing healthy eating habits to young students will help them learn to keep those healthy habits for life.

“I don’t know that it’s going to be warmly accepted, especially from the older students,” she added. “It’s just a new way of thinking, but it’s got to be the way we go because we have an obesity problem all over the United States. We have to start somewhere.”

Snacks and beverages

While the new guidelines do not come with mandates for snacks served at school, Arnold said L’Anse Creuse has taken on regulating a la carte snacks, as well as beverages. Items like pop and ice cream are not sold in the district, she said, although the schools cannot control what goes into the vending machines.

“There are no a la carte snacks in elementary whatsoever, but in middle and high school we follow the Alliance for a Healthier Generation Act, which gives guidelines on what are approved snacks and beverages,” Arnold explained. “We don’t sell the sugary sports drinks and we have a whole list of products that fall into the healthy guidelines.”

At Chippewa schools, the food service department is prohibited from serving fondant, nougat and licorice, VanWormer said. Items like chips and cookies are not regulated and may be purchased by students.

Vending machines with Pepsi products, including Gatorade, can be found in the hallways of Chippewa Valley's high schools, but are turned off during school hours.

L’Anse Creuse collaborates with Gordon Food Services and Sodexo, Inc., a provider of integrated food and facilities management services, to provide school lunches. The food is prepared for students on site, Arnold said. She noted that the district breaks even with food program sales.

VanWormer said the Chippewa Valley food service department is a self-supporting nonprofit that earns enough to cover expenses without using money from the general fund.

Darla b September 04, 2012 at 12:42 PM
Black beans as a requirement? For Kids? Good luck with that. I see lots of money spent on wasted food. I agree that kids need a balanced meal, but I think this goes too far. Thankfully the government hasn't started physically inspecting what is in their lunch sacks...yet.
kam September 04, 2012 at 05:28 PM
I think it is great! Do you think they will get rid of a few of the 6, yes 6 french fry lines at Dakota? The majority of them only eat fries for lunch, they make it easier for the kids to purchase junk food by giving them 6 lines for french fries.
Gail Laughhunn September 05, 2012 at 12:57 AM
Maybe they should go out and play more. We played and ate what we wanted and most of us were very thin.
Jenny Whalen September 05, 2012 at 01:42 AM
This comment has been deleted for violating Patch's Terms of Use. We do not allow comments that promote "racism, bigotry, hatred or physical harm of any kind against any group or individual." You can review our terms here: http://clintontwp.patch.com/terms
Erin Rawlings September 06, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Why wouldn't you want school lunches to be more healthy? I love that they are incorporating beans as a meatless alternative. Isn't educating kids about nutrition just as important as educating them in core subjects?


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