New regulations became effective on March 26, but school compliance had to be met on July 1, according to the Department of Agriculture.
Also the mandate hopes to increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free and low-fat fluid milk in the school menu; reduce the levels of sodium, saturated fat and trans fat in school meals; and meet the nutritional needs of school children within their calorie requirements.
“The changes are there to decrease childhood obesity and type two diabetes,” said Kim Kiker the Nutrition Director for Calhoun City Schools.
Schools must offer dark green vegetables, orange/red vegetables and legumes at least once a week, eliminate all added trans-fat and serve only one percent or nonfat milk, and according to new regulations, all bread and pasta must be whole grain enriched.
Kiker said she analyzes the school menus to make sure they are in compliance, because the schools are reviewed every three years.
Under the new regulations the calorie limits are set for meals in regards to grade level. Grades k-5, 550-650 calories; grades 6-8, 600-700 calories; grades 9-12, 750-850 calories, and non compliance to these alterations could result in a loss of subsidies.
The calories standards are for the reimbursable meals, according to Robert Wheeler the Director of Nutrition for the Gordon County School System, these are the main chooses for the students which consist of two servings of fruits and vegetables, meat or protein based foods, bread and milk.
The reimbursement meals are incorporated by the federal government to give the schools money for reduced lunches, free lunches and paid lunches.
According to Kiker, this will allow the schools to afford the integration of more fruits and vegetables.
In response however, school lunch prices will be raised gradually over the next 10 years to match the federal money received for free and reduced lunches.
Wheeler said they implemented a few of these changes last school year, and the overall feedback was positive.
“One girl actually told the school nurse she lost eight pounds just by eating right,” said Wheeler.
The approach for explaining the changes to the students is different between schools across the nation. Some schools aren’t talking about the changes, but other schools, like the Gordon County system, have been informing the students.
“We have state department literature we are using to inform the students,” said Wheeler.
Calhoun City Schools are taking an encouraging route to persuade the students. Kiker said they have signage up on the lunch lines and menus reminding kids they have to take a fruit and vegetable.
I think it’s going to encourage kids to eat more fruits and vegetables and more whole grain, which is a good thing,” said Kiker.
A lot of schools are taking a farm to school approach for purchasing fresh fruits and vegetable, and buying their produce from local farms.
Calhoun City Schools use Whitco, a produce distributor out of Dalton, which obtains local produce when he can, according to Kiker.
The reason Calhoun City uses a produce distributor, according to Kiker, is the schools are ensured the farming procedures being used are safe before produce ispurchased and delivered to the schools.
Most people are on board with the changes, and think that starting healthy eating habits at an early age can really be advantageous tohelp fight childhood obesity.