Lunch Staff Strives to Meet New Guidelines while Catering to Students’ Tastes

News, Rotator — By on September 6, 2012 4:11 pm

By Hannah Wieditz-

A lunch worker makes fresh sandwiches for students at the sandwich bar, which is much more popular among students this year than the pre-made sandwiches offered last year. In addition to this, students can also choose the salad bar and are always able to take as many vegetables as they care to with their main entree. Photo by Gretchen Oelrich.

Changes are happening at lunch as a result of the new law, The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Dispite its name, this new legislation may actually leave some of our students hungry. An interesting statistic is that the middle school lunch calorie minimum last year of 785 calories is actually higher than the current maximum of 600-700 calories. The current maximum for high school students is 750-850 calories.

Some students are concerned that the new meal regulations don’t provide big enough portions. Junior Miranda Chapman who participates in basketball, track, and two seasons of softball is adjusting to the new meal plans. “I feel like I’m not getting enough calories for all the physical activity I do in a day,” said Chapman, “I bring my own lunch now so I can make sure I’m getting enough to keep me going.”

The school district can’t stretch the new law for any students, so athletes may have to end up purchasing a second entrée. However, students are allowed to take as many fresh vegetables as they desire. In previous years, there was a minimum number of calories that could go into a school’s lunch, and now there are both minimum and maximum calorie guidelines per meal that the school has to abide by.

The law requires an increase in children’s intake of fruits and vegetables so that they can carry good eating habits into adulthood. However, an increase in these food groups is not easily adjusted to when the guidelines are so drastically different from previous meal plans. Mount Vernon School District’s food service director Marcia Purington plans out meals months in advance to fit all the needs that this law requires. She said that sometimes when she plans meals she finds that she meets the requirements for the day, but not necessarily the week. When that happens she has to go back and rework the menu so that she can fulfill all of the requirements for that week.

With new changes also comes new meals, as Mrs. Purington and the kitchen staff work hard to make healthful recipes that will still be appealing to students. White beans and chicken chilli, taco soup, orange chicken, and even new pasta dishes could potentially be brought into the new menu. Although, a student favorite, pasta bar, may have to be withdrawn from the menu because of the high fat in alfredo sauce. “I’m just trial and erroring right now, seeing what’s working and what isn’t,” said Mrs. Purington.

One solution is the sandwich bar offered if the students do not prefer to eat the main entrée. There is a choice of whole wheat or whole grain bread with a meat such as turkey, ham, or chicken salad. The students always have the option to dress it with vegetables or keep the whole sandwich vegetarian.

“The positive thing about the sandwich bar is people can get cheese, and lettuce and tomatoes.” said principal Steve Brand. “They’re not pre-made sandwiches, so I think that offering in itself opens up to our students that want to have a vegetarian meal,” he said. “That was one of the requests last year that people came to me with.”

There are five different categories of vegetables that must be included in the meals every week: dark green vegetables, starchy, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas, and a category for those vegetables which do not fall into one. There are also minimums and maximums for breads and grains incorporated in to the meals. For instance, high school students should only have 9-10 ounces of meat and grains weekly. This category includes cheese and cottage cheese which are considered meat alternates. The guidelines for the meals are not only specific as to what kinds of vegetables go into the meals, but also how much sodium and calories they contain.

Mr. Brand said that Mrs. Purington puts a lot of time and effort into the meal plans. “Marcia wants to offer the best lunches she can,” said Mr. Brand, “and she’s trying to do it within the guidelines and the regulations that are set forth to her.”

Nonetheless, the Mount Vernon School district is working at its best to provide for the students while staying within the guidelines. Mr. Brand said, “We have a wonderful lunch staff. We truly have people that care about kids.”



You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.