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USDA Eases School Lunch Rules

December 17, 2012

School lunches have changed again, but not drastically. Under pressure from several mid-west senators, including Senator John Hoeven (R. N.D.), last week the USDA relaxed some of the strict school lunch guidelines that were put into place last summer.
The biggest change, according to Litchville-Marion Superintendent Steve Larson, is that there will no longer be a charge for seconds. A plus for students on free or reduced meals who had to pay for seconds. Sheri Rode, head cook at L-M Elementary expects more changes.
In July, the USDA announced changes to the school lunch program, which reimburses many public schools six cents per-meal, that included restricting calories for students in grades kindergarten through fifth to 550-650 calories at lunch, students in grades sixth through eight to 600-700, and students in grades ninth through twelfth to 750-850 calories.
In addition, students were limited in fats and grains. Meat portions were slashed and most breads had to be whole grain.
Portion sizes and servings for fruits were increased and many deserts were off-limits.
School breakfasts were similarly changed.
And while students were charged for seconds of main courses and breads, extra helpings of fruits and vegetables were free.
These changes took effect at the beginning of the school year as an effort to combat childhood obesity, according to the USDA.
Many students, especially older kids and student athletes, however, didn't like the changes in the program, going as far as posting videos on You Tube asking the government to change the rules.
The new guidelines require more administrative work too. Rode had to re-write recipes and submit them to the USDA, along with menus, for approval.
While some students don't like the changes, Rode's students seem to not mind them so much. They didn't always understand how the seconds rule worked or why Rode didn't put bread out every day, but they are enjoying the extra fruits and vegetables.
Rode did wonder how the calorie restrictions would affect bigger kids and student athletes.
I agree with some of it, but not all of it," she said.
Audrey Matzke, head cook at L-M High School, likes that the USDA has loosened at least some of the food restrictions.
"We can live with this," she said.
Matzke questioned whether the guidelines will help with obesity. She overheard a parent saying, "I don't know what good it does to cut them off at school when they're just going to go home and pig out."
Matzke agreed, "Obesity starts at home and it starts when they're little while their habits and taste buds are developing."

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