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September 13, 2012

Area schools make big changes to meal programs

'Well-nourished kids do better in school'

PLATTSBURGH — When Lynnettia Fields began classes at Keeseville Elementary School last week, she noticed something different about the meals being served in the cafeteria. 

“There’s more veggies,” the fifth-grader said Tuesday as she ate her school lunch of pasta and salad. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has modified its guidelines for school food programs in an effort to provide healthier meals to kids across the country as part of the national Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. 

The new requirements, some of which were to be implemented by the start of this school year, focus on reducing the amount of calories and fat in school meals and increasing students’ intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. 

“The goal is to try to reduce childhood obesity,” said Stephen Broadwell, superintendent of Willsboro Central School. 

Schools are now required to double their serving sizes of fruits and vegetables and must incorporate healthier vegetable options, such as dark green, red and orange vegetables and beans and other legumes. 

In addition, students must now select at least one fruit or vegetable to be part of each of their school meals.

“Previously, students didn’t have to chose a fruit or vegetable at all,” said Laura Marlow, superintendent of Northern Adirondack Central School.

NO TRANS FAT

Also this year, 50 percent of all grain foods served in schools must be wholegrain rich, and 100 percent must be so by the 2014-15 school year. 

And students can say goodbye to 2 percent milk, as the USDA requires that only skim and 1 percent milk be served in school cafeterias. 

The new guidelines also mandate that school meals contain no trans fats and an average of less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat.   

“It’s a reinforcement of our commitment to good nutrition for the kids,” Marlow said. 

“We all know that well-nourished kids do better in school.”

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