School lunches all across the country have been changing in order to meet the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) requirements. These requirements state that students must receive a healthy lunch when purchased at school.
This shift began happening soon after Michelle Obama became the first lady. She took the initiative to organize polls and surveys to assess children and teen’s diets and obesity rates across the country.
Their results then launched a nationwide campaign to adjust school lunches. All across the country school’s are modifying their lunches in order to promote a healthy diet for students.
“Nationwide lunches are getting healthier and I would say that California has been on the forefront of this movement. Even the San Juan District has been really progressive as far as implementing a healthy diet,” said Monique Stovall, Director of Food Services.
These healthy lunches include more whole grains, fruits and vegetables. The state of California also issued a mandate ordering all students to take a serving of fruit or vegetables when purchasing a school lunch.
“Even if the student doesn’t want the serving of fruit or vegetables, we have to give it to them,” said cook Shellie Bowen.
The school is also increasing its variety of fruits and vegetables such as offering carrot sticks, salads, celery, broccoli, bananas, apples, oranges, etc. Consequently, foods that are regarded as unhealthy according to federal and state guidelines are being limited or removed entirely from school lunch programs.
“When I went to Rio I remember they used to serve Taco Bell, but it wasn’t until I was a senior that they took it away,” said guest teacher Catherine Kenner.
In fact, all high schools in the district used to serve Taco Bell until state regulations were revised, leading to Taco Bell being unable to comply to the new rules. Revisions to these health regulations occur almost annually.
One major revision took place in 2010 when the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act took effect. These new federal guidelines were the ones that made certain that all children receive fruits and vegetables every day of the week; but it also stated that meals must lower sodium, trans fat and saturated fat.
Just recently the school dropped Roundtable as their pizza provider because their pizza did not satisfy regulations. Domino’s pizza has now been adopted as a substitute due to the fact that their crust is whole wheat.
However, Domino’s is generally unpopular among students compared to Roundtable.
“It’s like eating the box instead of the pizza,” said Clay Leferve.
Foods will continue to disappear to be replaced by healthier options. For example, by July 1 2014 all grains will be switched to whole wheat.
“Most of the changes occur during the summer when dieticians come to the school and go through meals to make sure they comply with regulations,” said food service supervisor, Rodney Lewis. “From there we decide what will stay and what will go.”
Drastic changes in school lunches are not likely to occur anymore, but for now lunches will continue to transition into its final stages proposed by the USDA.