New regs already part of ACS food plan

Published 12:03 am Saturday, January 28, 2012

Students in the Andalusia City School system are already partaking in many of the new USDA guidelines. Katie Lambert eats an apple. | File photo


New mandates from the USDA designed to improve cafeteria food and reduce childhood obesity will mean few changes for Andalusia City School students.

The $3.2 billion federally funded, five-year plan was released Wednesday and will impact about 32 million children by guaranteeing more veggies and whole grains on the lunch table. Full-fat milk is off the menu, meaning kids will choose from low-fat or fat-free.

In the announcement, the USDA released a sample “before and after” menu for the average elementary school to reflect the improvements the budgetary boost and guidelines will make. Fried mozzarella and marinara sticks are swapped out for a chef’s salad. Pizzas get a whole-wheat crust. Condiments are reduced in fat. And even canned fruit is out in, in favor of raw, fresher options.

At Andalusia, a good majority of the changes have already been made, but child nutrition officials said they are studying the requirements in depth to determine what, if any, additional changes need to be made.

“We are still reviewing all the details of the new meal pattern, but Andalusia City Schools has already brought a variety of healthier choices to our school cafeterias that address goals in the new regulations,” said Stephanie Dillard, the system’s child nutrition director. “For example, we serve at least one fresh fruit and vegetable every day. We’ve already made the switch to 1 percent or fat free milk. Our sandwiches are served on whole wheat bread, and our cafeterias have introduced lower sodium entrees.”

Dillard said after a thorough review of the meal pattern, “we’ll begin building on the progress we’ve already made and plan our menus for next school year to reflect these new nutrition guidelines.”

“We know it’s critical that students accept and consume these healthier options,” she said. “Our school nutrition staff has found great ways to get students excited about healthy food choices, and we’ll continue to work on creative solutions to ensure healthy foods appeal to students.”

Dillard said some of those solutions include a student taste test of new menu items and unlimited fresh fruits and vegetables to all students. And, thanks to a “fresh fruit and vegetable” grant, AES students are offered varieties of lesser-known or exotic fresh fruits and veggies at a minimum of twice a week.

“We’ll face some challenges to meet all the new requirements on a tight budget, but our school nutrition program will be working hard to make these healthy changes for our students,” she said. “We hope parents will support this effort by encouraging their students to give the healthier meals a try.”