USDA wants healthier school food

Krystle Wagner • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:13 PM

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed new rules that would require schools to remove certain foods from lunches and vending machines — including fatty chips, mozzarella sticks and pop.

The new rules wouldn’t apply to classroom festivities, sporting events or bake sales.

During the next 60 days, the federal agency is looking for the community’s input. Once the comment period ends, the changes wouldn’t be implemented for one school year so that schools and vendors would have adequate time to change their offerings.

To comment on the USDA’s proposed rules, CLICK HERE.

Mary Darnton, director of dining services for Grand Haven Area Public Schools, said school nutrition professionals have been asking for these changes for years.

“I’m in favor of the changes because it affects the whole school environment, not just the cafeteria,” she said. “I’m also glad that the USDA recognizes the need for school traditions to be honored, like having birthday treats in classrooms.”

If the ag department implements the regulations, Darnton said the Grand Haven district would have to review all items served on school campuses. She said menu choices are made based on USDA meal guidelines and what appeals to students.

The a la carte line for Grand Haven students is only available for grades 7-12, but they also receive different selections.

Peg Panici, director of food services for Spring Lake Public Schools, said the proposed rules would be a positive change.

“I’m pleased the USDA is aligning the a la carte program with the required changes made with school lunch guidelines in the past few years,” she said.

Panici said the a la carte line is a small part of Spring Lake High School’s lunch program.

“The a la carte program at Spring Lake has evolved as students’ tastes have changed, and many of the items on the proposed list have been offered to Spring Lake students for several years,” she said. "... Our goal is to provide healthy, cost-effective meals that students will enjoy."

Kate Miller, director of food services for Fruitport Community Schools, said the proposed rules wouldn’t impact her district’s food offerings. She said the Fruitport district's a la carte menus already offer baked chips, crackers, fruit, low-fat yogurt and 100 percent juice.

Miller said the proposed regulations would be beneficial because they will be able to provide students with healthy snack options.

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