Wells-Ogunquit CSD Nutrition Services Implementing New, Stricter USDA Guidelines for School Lunches

Post date: Oct 05, 2012 4:26:41 PM

The beginning of the 2012-2013 school year found school lunch programs across the country offering lunch menus with a new meal pattern geared to improving healthy eating and increasing the nutritional value of public school lunches. This is to comply with new USDA guidelines resulting from the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in late 2010.

Fortunately, the Nutrition Services staff directed by Tyler Goodwin in the Wells-Ogunquit CSD has been working to improve the menu offerings to students for a long time. For over half a decade there has been an emphasis on increasing the nutritional value of food offerings, nutritional education and an increasing shift to buying more food from local farms. As a result of this unwavering focus on improving nutrition, Wells Elementary School was awarded the prestigious Silver Award in the Healthier US Schools Challenge by the United States Department of Agriculture in April 2012. WES is one of only two schools in the state to reach the silver level.

Still, Goodwin says, Nutrition Services has a way to go to reach and exceed the new government standards which limit total meal caloric levels to 650 calories for K-8 students and up to 850 calories for high school students.

Some of the other meal standards announced in January 2012 by First Lady Michelle Obama, a proponent of more exercise for youth in her ‘Let’s Move’ program and better school lunch nutrition, include limiting saturated fat to just 10 percent of total caloric intake per meal, reducing sodium levels, providing larger servings of vegetables and fruits, offering only fat free or one percent milk, and, by 2014, offering only grains that are whole-grain rich.

Goodwin said that his staff is working hard to make more meal offerings “from scratch” with more ingredients grown locally resulting in less food additives. Farms that Goodwin is working with include Spillers Farm, Chases and Sunny Acres Farm, all in Wells.

Some other healthy changes include the elimination of a daily menu offering of french fries at Wells High School and a daily offering of pizza, cheese burgers and chicken patties at Wells Junior High School. In place of the fries, WHS now has a made-to-order deli bar stocked with freshly made ingredients each day. All WOCSD schools now feature a salad bar featuring a wider variety of vegetables.

There is a temporary downside to all of this. Goodwin indicated that these new guidelines have greatly increased the cost of preparing a school meal. The biggest change the students have noticed is the requirement that every school lunch has to include a minimum ½ cup serving of fruit or vegetable. Currently, he and his staff feed an average of 900 students a day throughout the District. He said that some students are not adjusting to the changes easily resulting in a rise in food waste. However he believes that these changes will become more common place over time.

“Change is always tough to institute no matter where you are at,” said Goodwin. “Offering a wider variety of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains to our students will make for healthier students and a better learning environment in our schools.” He later added that the USDA is open to comments on the new lunch menu guidelines.