Here are a few facts about school lunches


This letter is in response to Mark Toth’s comments on Champion Schools’ cafeteria in last week’s paper.

If Mr. Toth has not already, I would suggest he get a copy of the Healthy Hungry Free Kids Act of 2010, which is the final rule that any school participating in the national school lunch program must follow. He should make sure that he has several hours to peruse the document, as it is very lengthy. Here are a few highlights.

Grains: This year, 50 percent and next year 100 percent of all grains served must be whole grain. Right down to the breading on the chicken nuggets. Yes, we get frozen pizzas that go into the oven and they are not like the pizzas we used to receive. Whole grain crust pizza is very different than what we have been used to, but it is the rule.

Vegetables: Students must be offered five subgroups weekly in differing amounts. The subgroups are: dark green, red/orange, legumes (yes, really) starchy and other. Five subgroups, 5 days in a week. So yes, students are receiving vegetables they have not in the past. We now may serve things like garbanzo beans, black beans, refried beans and lentils as they are legumes. Yes, students are receiving spinach to fulfill the dark green requirement. They also can be getting broccoli, romaine, bok choy, collard greens and watercress, among a few other things. Yes, they are also receiving squash to fulfill the red/orange requirement. Also on the list, besides three kinds of squash, are carrots and tomatoes. The other category includes beets, brussel sprouts, cabbage, turnips, wax beans, cauliflower and others. Starchy is the easiest category because it obviously includes potatoes, but it is the category we are to use the least. Just a side note, peas and corn are considered a starch and green beans and green peppers fall into the ”other” category.

Every student receiving a reimbursable tray must take a fruit or vegetable. It’s the rule. Believe me, food service directors everywhere are sick about how much of the food is tossed in the trash. We are required to offer it but we cannot make the students eat it.

Beyond these requirements, we also must bring in these weekly meals within a certain number for saturated fats, sodium and calories according to different age groups and within our ever-shrinking budgets.

So perhaps before everyone starts bringing out the pitchforks, they may want to dig a little deeper into all the regulations and then they can make informed and helpful suggestions.

They can also encourage their child to try new foods and help them understand how to make healthy food choices. That would be a good place to start.

— Lynn Thiry, Newton Falls