SD2 tweaks menu following new USDA regs

2012-09-08T00:00:00Z SD2 tweaks menu following new USDA regsBy ROB ROGERS rrogers@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Sometimes, the trick to getting kids to eat their vegetables is to not serve them canned corn.

But Joslyn Browson, a fifth-grader at Broadwater Elementary School, disagreed.

"I love the corn," she said.

She was sitting at lunch Friday with her classmates Nathan Matye, Aiden Sand, Dylan Clayton and Gabe Logulo, eating a burrito, canned corn and drinking from a fruit juice cup.

Aiden, who had taken a slice of pizza from the lunch cart, hadn't touched his pile of corn or the apple wedge that sat next to it, browning in the warm lunch room.

"I never eat 'em," he said of his fruits and vegetables, the corn especially.  

"I always like the fruits and vegetables," Joslyn said.

And true enough, she'd eaten most of the fruit and vegetables from her foam tray, including the corn.  

Under new regulations adopted last year by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, schools are now required to serve one half-cup of fruits or vegetables (or a quarter-cup of both) with every meal that goes out the kitchen door.

Some of the portions get eaten, some get thrown away.

"There is a potential for more waste because of this," said Bette Hunt, director of food services for School District 2. "But most of the kids are really good about their fruits and vegetables."

The new USDA requirements not only boosted fruit and vegetable servings, but changed the way schools quantified what goes out from the kitchen.

The old system was based on measured nutrients per serving. The new systems is component-based, Hunt said.

Each school meal must now include some combination of the five components of meat or a protein-based alternate like beans, grains, fruits, vegetables and milk.

It also requires that schools serve no more than eight to 10 servings of grains a week for elementary schools. That forced Sodexo, the food company that supplies SD2 with its meals, to shrink the size of its buns.

But aside from that, the district didn't see much change to its meals.

"A lot of the changes that are required, we'd already done," Hunt said.

For example, the new requirements stipulate that if a school serves a flavored milk, it has to be fat-free.

"We've already been doing that," Hunt said.

She's hopeful that the new regulations will help the district's students form healthier eating habits. She also hopes the USDA will acknowledge that just because students have more fruits and vegetables on their tray doesn't mean they're going to eat them. She wants to find a good way to address that.

But overall, Hunt sees the new regulations as a good thing. It gives clear directions to districts and helps them better craft healthy meals.

"I think that's the intent," Hunt said. "It'll probably make meals healthier." 

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