Hopkinsville paper gives detailed description of federally mandated changes in Christian County school lunches

Five years ago Christian County Public Schools served a dessert with every meal, white rolls, and vegetables with plenty of salt, Margarita Cambest reports for the Kentucky New Era in Hopkinsville.

Shift to 2014: Dessert is considered an occasional treat, fruit is a staple, the rolls are whole grain and there are vegetables galore, with a lot less salt.  Students are adjusting to these changes as school meal programs shift to comply with new federal guidelines, Cambest reports.

“They want to be healthy, but they don’t always want to eat healthy,” Sandra McIntosh, the schools’ food service coordinator, told Cambest. “This makes it easier.”

The Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act, which passed in 2010, initially required schools in the federal meal program to decrease fat and sodium and increase whole grains. This year, strict sodium and calorie limits have taken effect. McIntosh told Cambest that this was the first major change in the program’s law in 30 years.

Specifically, fruits and vegetables must be offered, with a choice between two meats, two vegetables and two fruits at each meal, Cambest writes. Whole grains have replaced white bread, and only fat-free or low-fat milk may be served, including chocolate milk. Calorie limits vary between grades, but all students must take at least one serving of fruit or vegetable at breakfast and one of each at lunch.

So what does a typical meal look like?  The New Era sampled lunch at Hopkinsville Middle School and reported a menu of breaded and baked chicken (with or without barbecue sauce), a cheeseburger on a whole-grain bun, or a chef’s salad. Green beans, mashed potatoes with gravy, or veggies with low-fat ranch dressing were served on the side, and a choice of a banana or mandarin orange slices rounded out the meal.

“A lot of times, kids aren’t offered this kind of variety at home,” schools spokeswoman Heather Lancaster told Cambest.

This year, all Christian County public-school students are eligible for free meals under the federal Community Eligibility Program, which applies to schools that serve mostly low-income students. The middle school and the district’s two high schools were the last in the district to be added to the program, Cambest reports. In the first 10 days of school, the three schools served 1,690 more breakfasts and 595 more lunches than in the same period last year. (Read more; this article is behind a paywall)

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