What kids are eating in their school lunches has been a topic of discussion since the School Nutrition Association was created in the 1940s. That’s because the guidelines are always changing.
New rules handed down earlier this year from the United States Department of Agriculture focus less on calories and fat and more on whether all the food groups are being served.
At Wea Ridge Elementary in Lafayette, a colorful menu board helps students make good choices as they move through the lunch line. Last year the Tippecanoe School Corporation served cheeseburgers. But this year they’re serving hamburgers. That’s because the new guidelines have changed how old favorites are served while adding more fruits and vegetables to the menu.
Why Tippecanoe Isn’t Serving Cheeseburgers This Year
Fifth grader Calen McCardel noticed right away there’s something different about her burger.
“We’re eating a hamburger — they usually have cheese on them, but today they don’t — pineapple, we’re drinking milk, and we have veggie tots and potato tots,” says McCardel.Overall, she says her meal is pretty good — but she’s not sold on the sweet potato tots. So she eats the potato tots and throws the vegetable tots into the trash at the end of the lunch period.
Lori Shofroth is the Director of Food Services for the Tippecanoe School Corporation. She spent the summer reformulating cafeteria menus to meet the new federal school lunch guidelines. They’re a big departure from the nutrient-based system the district used for four years. Shofroth counted sugars, salts, fats and calories to make sure kids were getting a well-balanced meal at school.
But over the next two years, schools in Indiana and across the country have to move to a food-based menu modeled after the federal My Plate guidelines.
“That is the five food components which is your fruit, your vegetable, grain, protein and dairy,” says Shofroth.
Starting this year, every school lunch has to feature three of the five components. That means every choice Shofroth offers is part of an intricate puzzle. She’s used to meeting daily minimums. But now schools must also adhere to weekly maximums. Right now, Shofroth can only get a 2-ounce burger from her suppliers — and for elementary students, that’s one-fifth of the weekly protein allotment.
“Over a week’s period time, you can only have ten meats. So if you put anything else out on that menu or add a piece of cheese to it, it’s 0.5 more proteins,” says Shofroth.
Elle Moxley/StateImpact Indiana permalink
First graders at Wea Ridge Elementary in Lafayette eat lunch on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012. Schools in Indiana and across the country are changing what they're serving to meet new federal school lunch guidelines.