Archive for Sunday, January 29, 2012

School district ahead of the curve on lunch menu upgrades

In this 2007 file photo, Nikki White works during a lunch period at Central Junior High School. Lawrence has already begun adapting to a change in federal food standards, which would replace hot dogs and bread with whole wheat spaghetti.

In this 2007 file photo, Nikki White works during a lunch period at Central Junior High School. Lawrence has already begun adapting to a change in federal food standards, which would replace hot dogs and bread with whole wheat spaghetti.

January 29, 2012


Goodbye hot dog. Hello whole wheat spaghetti.

On the menu

As part of the new nutritional standard for school lunches, U.S. Department of Agriculture included ways traditional school lunch menus could change. Here is a week’s worth of examples:



Bean and cheese burrito with mozzarella cheese, applesauce, orange juice, 2 percent milk


Submarine sandwich (with turkey, low-fat cheese on a whole-wheat roll), refried beans, jicama, green pepper strips, cantaloupe wedges, skim milk, mustard, reduced-fat mayonnaise, low-fat ranch dip



Hot dog on a bun with ketchup, canned pears, raw celery and carrots with ranch dressing, low-fat chocolate milk


Whole-wheat spaghetti with meat sauce, whole-wheat roll, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, kiwi halves, low-fat milk, low-fat ranch dip, soft margarine



Pizza sticks with marinara sauce, banana, raisins, whole milk


Chef salad (with romaine lettuce, low-fat mozzarella, grilled chicken), whole-wheat soft pretzel, corn, baby carrots, banana, skim chocolate milk, low-fat ranch dressing, low-fat Italian dressing



Breaded beef patty with ketchup, wheat roll, frozen fruit juice bar, 2 percent milk


Oven-baked fish nuggets with whole-wheat roll, mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli, peaches, skim milk, tarter sauce, soft margarine



Cheese pizza, canned pineapple, tater tots with ketchup, low-fat chocolate milk


Whole-wheat cheese pizza, baked sweet potato fries, raw grape tomatoes, applesauce, low-fat milk, low-fat ranch dip

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released new standards for school lunches that would boost the amount of whole grains, fruits and vegetables school children are offered and scale back on fat and salt. The new standards will be phased in over three years starting next school year. And, from what Lawrence public schools food services supervisor and registered dietitian Lindsey Morgan has seen, she doesn’t expect much to change for local schools.

“For the most part, we are in good shape looking toward next year,” Morgan said.

The new USDA standards call for lunch menus to offer:

  • Fruits and vegetables every day of the week.
  • More whole-grain foods.
  • Milk that is fat-free or low-fat.
  • Meals with adjusted calorie counts for each age group.
  • Foods with less saturated fats, trans fats and sodium.

The USDA stated that many of the proposed nutrition changes are ones parents are already trying to make at home. And, they are similar to the changes the school district has been implementing over the past several years.

The district’s own guidelines call for half of all grain to be whole grains, at least four fruit and vegetable choices daily and one low-fat entree for lunch that has less than 480 mg of sodium. The policies also calls for as little prepared food as the budget allows.

Already, the district spends an extra $15,000 a year on whole-grain bread products. They provide only low-fat or skim milk. And, the only kind of chocolate milk available is skim. The district did away with french fries several years ago and recently introduced sweet potato fries to some schools.

“We have a really good start,” Morgan said.

A quick look at January’s lunch menus for Lawrence elementary schools shows the healthy choices of yogurt parfaits, steamed broccoli and carrots, green beans, peaches, pears and orange wedges. Students also have the choice of creating a chef salad every day. However, the school menu still offers some not-so-healthy options, such as pizza, corn dogs, hot dogs and chicken nuggets.

Morgan said it’s too early to tell whether the new standards mean certain items will have to come off the menu or if the cost of a school lunch will go up as meals meet healthier guidelines.

“We haven’t even started looking at that,” she said.

According to the USDA, the new standards are expected to cost $3.2 billion over the next five years and are just one of the many changes expected to come out of the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act that will affect schools.


Shelley Bock 6 years, 4 months ago

I can hear it now..."Darned Department of Education trying to tell our local school district what to serve. Let's get rid of them!"

But wait, it is the Department of Agriculture. OK, let's get rid of them! Then again, too many subsidies to farmers and agribusiness would go away and that wouldn't be very popular. Seems to me that if you don't receive anything from an agency, it is OK to eliminate it, but everyone wants to protect their "sacred cow" agency or department.

Personally, I never thought I would ever eat escargot (French restaurant), calamari (Korean restaurant) or lamb (Moroccan meatballs), but now have. As a good Kansan, I used to think that if it wasn't a cow or a chicken, it wasn't good to eat. Wouldn't it be fun to see those on the cafeteria menu? Wonder how many "dare you to eat" would happen? Why not have a cooking class called "Foods of the World"? It could also include rice and beans which are subsistence diet for much of the world, also Indian, Mid East and Chinese food.

Lisa Medsker 6 years, 4 months ago

What if "upgrade" meant "using actual food", instead of "genetically-modified, flash-frozen, high-fructose corn syrup, heat-and-serve, modified Army T-rations"? Oh, and the food served might actually be tolerable!

Allan Jackson 6 years, 4 months ago

Yes! Forget all these regulations about the amount of fat or some other nutrient that they can include. Just start serving Real Food and the students' health will improve.

mom_of_three 6 years, 4 months ago

pizza and chicken nuggets does not necessarily mean unhealthy. There was an article in the KC paper about lunches, and some schools use wheat crust from scratch and low fat cheese. It was healthy and tasty.

wysiwyg69 6 years, 4 months ago

It does not matter if they serve healthy food if the students do not eat it. If you think otherwise, go to your local school and see how much food is tossed into the trash every day. I see what is tossed daily. I know all schools are not the same but from what I have heard it is fairly wide spread.

valgrlku 6 years, 4 months ago

Part of the issue is that students are required to take the main dish, even if they aren't going to eat it. For example, if someone would like just the veggies and fruit, it is my understanding that s/he still has to take the main. This might be a requirement of the federal food program, as I've heard from people in other districts who have the same policy. Could someone clarify?

My daughter hesitates doing so, since she doesn't want to waste what she knows she won't eat. If students were permitted to pick and choose which foods to eat (and not forced to take items they won't or can't eat), then perhaps so much food wouldn't go to waste.

BorderRat 6 years, 4 months ago

What??? No more Char Burgers or Johnny Marzetti? It's an outrage I tell ya, an outrage.

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