Schools get creative with healthier lunches

School lunches have come a long way since most adults were in school.
Annie Zelm
Sep 26, 2011


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.



Curious as to where the hair nets are on the servers?


I remember healthy lunches. Johnny Marzetti, chili, grilled cheese and tomato soup, tuna salad. I also remember the vegetables that were fresh and the cooks actually cooked them, they didn't open a can. We didn't have a choice as to what we ate. There was ONE choice for the day. I sincerely believe that the reason we are obese as a nation is because of two things. #1, if you put growth hormones in food (cattle, chicken, etc) and WE eat the meat that has those hormones in it, won't we ingest it and won't it make us fatter?. #2, Exercise!! I bet in the rate of obesity body parts, the thumbs are the thinnest. With all the exercise they get playing video games, it's no wonder that the rest of the body is fat.

Kottage Kat


You are so right.     Kat with a K


Very happy to see this in the schools!  This will help the obesity issue across the country. 


Glad to see the good food is coming back to the schools.  Our kids health is the health of someone in their 50's and 60's and we have to correct the problem.  Kids should be eating whole wheat bread instead of white bread in the picture.  Our nation needs to get back on the health kick and kick the doctors and medication to the curb.  Listen to your doctor but you are the one to make the final decision about your health.  The pills will make you sicker the more you take the sicker you get.


 chicken nuggets and tater tots? Junk food and lots of fat and calories. Pizza was replaced? I don't see anything wrong with pizza unless one eats too much of it.

9 pieces of tater tots contain 160 calories. I see more than 9 pieces on that boy's food tray. Boiled or baked potatoes are better for nutrition.




grandmasgirl, most high school kids in this area are involved in school sports.  And some of them are still overweight.  It seems to be more a result of processed foods than lack of activity from what I have seen.  And doctors and scientists still don't understand a lot about body weight and metabolism issues...hence why some kids that eat chips and cookies everyday at lunch never gain a pound, while some kids who are quite active still gain weight very easily.

Lousy Username

I don't know if any of you have kids in school, so I would like to tell you what I have seen happen at the school my kids go to, and that my wife also teaches at. The school started offering breakfast for the kids, because they were forced to, due to the fact they had the "certain percentage" of kids qualifying for free or reduced lunch. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind them offering breakfast. After a month of them offering it I asked my wife how it was going? She said she was sick to see the amount of food that went into the trash. I then asked what items were more likely to be thrown out? Her answer was "fruit". I took a closer look at the menu, and was surprised to see so many items that were empty calories. I don't know what the answer is, but I think it starts at home. Fix the home life, and most of this countries problems go away.


I agree, this will likely have little impact.  However, the schools should be obligated to provide healthy food.  If it doesn't get eaten, so be it.  And please don't make my kid take gym.  She gets more than enough excercise and it would take time away from more important electives. 


School lunches do need to be looked at better and hopefully they won't go overboard on what to keep and what not to . All I can say is the school lunch program went down the drain with the end of the mighty pizza burger and those wonderful peanut butter cookies from the high school that we all tried to sneak out in our pockets to another class, only to be busted out by the smell in class by other students. Damn!


 it's just a matter of time until the government tells you what you can serve in you own household. And, if you can't afford what we dictate we will provide "free of charge".  Except to the taxpayers, who get to fund all our mandates.


 Donutshopguy: Public schools are government run. Your comment has nothing to do with school lunches. Go eat some more donuts. 

I am not against healthy lunches, but this will end up going overboard. Do you think it matters? Kid goes home and eats Doritos, sucks down cola for two hours in front of the tv; then busy-lazy mom comes home with Burger King for dinner. Oh I forgot that’s why the government wants to crack down on fast food. Obviously the government must control our every move.   Maybe we need a cafeteria czar, don’t eat all your food then off to detention. There is a pilot program in San Antonio; cameras in the lunch line record what’s on a kid tray when they receive it and what remains when it is returned, trays have bar codes. Also talk already of not being able to pack your own lunch. That is troubling.   BMI; studies show there are too many variables it does not consider. Even doctors claim it is misleading and should not be used as an indicator of overall health. A lot of athletes would be considered obese, muscle is denser than fat. It’s the non-active lifestyle,or sitting all day at work that glues the Cheetos to your !!s  
49% of Americans believe the federal government has become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens. In 2003, less than a third (30%) believed this. Source recent Gallup poll Eriemom
Gil, regarding your packed lunch comment. Banning of home packed lunches are underway now in Chicago Public Schools. One principal commented the goal is to protect students from their own unhealthy foods. A spokesman for Chicago Public Schools confirmed many schools are starting that policy but declined to give details. This is overstepping the bounds into the total control arena. So students can eat a nice healthy lunch, but still cant divide 12 ½ by 1 ¾. The government knows best, maybe they can put more fluoride and lithium in the kids bottled water.