It seems that we have had many a post this fall about nutrition and a couple specifically looked at the new USDA school lunch guidelines. As we mentioned back in the Healthy Garbage Cans post in Sept. 2012 the changes in school lunch programs while well-intentioned had an implementation schedule that caused issues for school administrators and were so drastic that ‘customers’ (aka students) were disposing of more food than ever because the flavors, textures and quantities were foreign.
My personal experience with the new menu came when I was invited to attend the Kindergarten Thanksgiving lunch. I generally found the food to be quite good but noticeably absent from the feast was bread stuffing/dressing and cranberry sauce. I was told that the stuffing would have exceeded the starch guideline and cranberry sauce would have done the same for the carbs. Valid reasons to me since I had experience working with dietician and formulating menus for residents of a nursing home. The children and I did get a treat though…ice cream…so everything was fine. Based upon what I saw that day the kids who had the school lunch consumed a majority of their meals.
The impact of the new guidelines in my daughters Catholic school have been handled well by the cafeteria staff. Perhaps this is because it is preparing food for about 150 daily and can take more time to make it look and taste good. Plus, they do a great deal of work with the physical ed. instructor to teach students good nutrition habits and what foods are better for them. Still there are complaints that some of the whole grain items taste like cardboard. My daughter is a bit of a finicky eater and often goes for the grilled cheese, turkey sandwich or PB&J option at school. She has never liked the school pizza which I find amazing since it does look and smell very good. Perhaps this is a bit of her aging and changing taste or partially the impact of the schools nutrition education since she doesn’t even like pizzeria pizza anymore and she used to love it.
Reading in the Buffalo News on Sunday I came across an article headline by Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick that said “Rules eased on grains, meat in students’ meals“. It seems that the USDA has been listening to feedback and observing the impact of the new guidelines on student food consumption. Basically the change as stated in Ms. Jalonick’s article “will do away with daily and weekly limits of meats and grains” In the same article Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated in a quoted letter to Congress that “This flexibility is being provided to allow more time for the development of products that fit within the new standards while granting schools additional weekly menu planning options to help ensure that children receive a wholesome, nutritious meal every day of the week.”
The article alludes to the point that perhaps it is not so much the complaints of students, parents and schools as it is that the USDA wants to be proactive on this before Lawyers in congress start to believe they are dietitians and make laws that say things like the tomato paste on pizza can be considered a vegetable serving or that the USDA can’t limit potatoes or french fries on a school menu. Interesting that they have time to prod into something they have no expertise on yet congress can not fix the budget nor the growing poverty in the USA. If we don’t begin addressing these issues we’ll start having the issues Spain is having as reported in a Sept. 24, 2012 NY Times article that “So pervasive is the problem of scavenging that one Spanish city has resorted to installing locks on supermarket trash bins as a public health precaution.”