The North Bend Eagle

 

Relaxed federal rules might make school lunch more enjoyable

by Mary Le Arneal
Published 1/27/16

NBC students are required to take one serving of a fruit or vegetable with their lunch in order to meet government nutrition requirements and receive federal reimbursements for free and reduced-priced lunches for low income students.

But food on the tray doesn’t always end up in the stomach.

“We see a lot of waste there,” director of NBC food service Deb Kavan said. “Probably not as much at the high school as at the elementary school. There are more choices at the high school.”

Students have to pass by Kavan at the end of the lunch line. If they do not have a fruit or vegetable on their tray, Kavan will request they go back and get one so she can count it as a reimbursable meal. All they have to do is have one on their tray. What happens after that is up to the student.

On Jan 20 the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry committee unanimously approved a bipartisan bill that would relax requirements to serve more whole grains and push back a deadline to cut salt from school meals, while keeping fruits and vegetables and other healthy snacks on the menu.

Kavan has worked in the high school kitchen for almost 30 years, serving as food service director the last four years. She said she has received numerous e-mails from the State Department of Health and Education as well as the School Nutritionist Association about the proposed changes.

“It’ll help out,” Kavan said, “but it is not everything we want.”

Current rules will soon require 100 percent of breads and pastas be whole grain. The new standards would relax the requirement to 80 percent. Kavan said baking from scratch helps NBC meet the whole grain requirement.

“It’s the (whole grain) pasta that’s hard,” Kavan said. “It can be gritty or mushy.”

Half cup servings of fruit or vegetable would continue to be required. There are salad bars at both the high school and elementary school to help meet that requirement.

“A lot more kids are eating fresh vegetables now,” Kavan said.

Freshman Grace Brodd generally likes fruit and vegetables.

“They usually have good choices,” Brodd said. “They have carrots and about twice a week they have grapes. They have frozen strawberries or peaches occasionally, but I don’t like them. They have watermelon the beginning and end of school, and I like that.”

Freshman Alyssa Winkelman doesn’t care for fruits and vegetables. Her favorite meal is a buttercrust cheese sandwich and her least favorite is a pasta dish.

Sodium restrictions that were to take effect in 2017 will be delayed until 2019, giving the schools and industry more time to find alternative spices.

“With the salt restrictions we would hardly be able to serve anything they like– pizzas, even some foods low in calories,” Kavan said.

Kavan said a lot of sodium was cut from the NBC menu when Connie Watts was director of food service. The thing that helps in menu planning is that the salt or sodium is calculated on a weekly basis, so some meals can have more salt if other meals have less.

Brodd said her least favorite is pizza, which now has a whole grain crust.

“It’s not how it used to be,”Brodd said.

Kavan said they look forward to having the standards relaxed. She said NBC has 97 to 98 percent participation in the lunch program.

“Overall the kids are eating better,” Kavan said. “They are more conscientious of nutrition.”

The bill with the revised restrictions needs to be passed by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives before enactment. The bill directs the Agriculture Department to revise the standards within 90 days of the bill’s enactment. If all goes smoothly, the new regulations could be in effect for the 2016-2017 school year.

 

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