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Schools get creative with healthier lunches

Annie Zelm • Sep 26, 2011 at 9:00 AM

School lunches have come a long way since most adults were in school.

Familiar staples like chicken nuggets and tater tots are still on the menu, but students are also finding salad bars, potato bars and lower-calorie drinks.

Popular favorites like a la carte pizza have been replaced with items that must meet a certain percentage of their daily nutritional value, such as at least five grams of protein and 10 percent of daily fiber requirements.

Many of the changes are things they might not even notice, like hamburger buns made with whole grains.

The changes come about as part of the Healthy Choices for Healthy Children Act, which took effect in part last year and part this year.

Similar changes are coming soon from the federal government.

School officials say that although they agree with the intent of the legislation, some of the stipulations are tough or downright impractical to put into practice.

One example: Schools can serve only one starchy vegetable per week. That means if students have mashed potatoes on Monday, they can't have French fries on Friday. Corn also counts as a starchy vegetable, so it can no longer be paired with potatoes.

And schools must meet a weekly quota for serving dark green and orange vegetables.

In fact, the portion of fresh fruits and vegetables schools must serve has doubled.

Serving fresh produce costs more, and there's no guarantee students will eat it, Huron City Schools food service director Sue Whitaker said.

"If the kids didn't eat the half a cup of fruit, what makes them think they're going to eat a whole cup?" she asked.

Healthy Choices for Healthy Children Act


• Restricts the sale of certain foods and beverages to students during the regular school day and before- and after-school programs in school districts.

• Requires each school district to designate staff to prepare an annual report detailing how they've complied with the standards.

• Prohibits the placement of vending machines in classrooms, except in specified circumstances.

• Permits breakfast provided as part of a federal school breakfast program to be offered in the classroom.

• Requires the Ohio Department of Education to begin a pilot program that will require students in participating districts to have at least 30 minutes of moderate to rigorous physical activity each school day.

• Requires schools to measure students' body mass index (a calculation of height and weight) in kindergarten, third, fifth and ninth grades, although districts can opt out.

Read more juicy details on what students can expect in their lunches in Monday's Register or e-paper.

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