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New school meal requirements apply to upcoming school year

The USDA has established new requirements for school meals most of which will begin with the start of the 2012-2013 school year.

They include that half of all grains offered must be whole grain rich and that vegetables from the followed groups must be offered each week: dark green, orange/red, beans, starchy and other. Minimum and maximum calorie levels and sodium levels have also been set, but participants will have until 2014-2015 to phase into them.

Another significant change is that the amount of food and calories offered at each meal will be based on 3 different age groups, grades K-5, 6-8, 9 -12.

Half-cup of fruit will need to be offered to grades K-8; 1 cup of fruit to grades 9-12; ¾ cup of vegetables to grades K-8; and 1 cup of vegetables to grades 9-12.

Students will be required to have ½ cup of one or the other on their tray for it to count as a full meal. A wide variety of fruits and vegetables daily will be offered so the students will have a good selection to choose from.

There will also be a limit as to how much meat/meat alternate (cheese, yogurt, peanut butter) and grains can be offered. Previously, there was a minimum to meet, but more could be offered. Now, the schools must stay within the specified ranges for each age group. This means main entrees may not be as large as they have been and bread will not always be part of the meal. However, more fruits and vegetables will be available than before.

Students in the secondary schools can still buy seconds and can now buy extra bread. Free and reduced students will need to pay for seconds and extra bread.

Parents can help by encouraging their children to try new things at home and school and joining their child for lunch and/or breakfast.

Questions or comments about these changes can be directed to Jan Sliper, Food Service Director at 499-1837.