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Healthier School Lunches

August 22, 2012, 6:06 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Healthier School Lunches
BRANDON, SD -

Students are noticing changes to the school lunch menu as they head back to school.  The new federal guidelines aim to provide healthier school lunches and curb the nation's childhood obesity epidemic.

Green will be more of a dominant color on school lunch trays as students take a bite into the new school year.

"I really love the apples and watermelon," fifth grader Cole Sylliaasen said.

But whether they love them or not, under the new guidelines, every student will be required to select at least one fruit or vegetable for their tray. That's just the beginning of the changes.

"Along with that we have minimums and maximums on our grains that we can serve to the kids and minimums and maximums on our proteins that we're serving the kids," Brandon Valley's Child Nutrition Director Gay Anderson said.

Schools also have to count calories and make sure students fall into a certain category: 550 to 650 for kindergarten through fifth graders, 600 to 700 for middle schoolers, and 750 to 850 for high schoolers.

"We're not necessarily the face of childhood obesity, but we are the ones who feed the children every day during the school year.  And we're hoping we can start having them getting new fruits and vegetables and grains incorporated into their diet," Anderson said.

While the new guidelines are creating healthier lunches, they're also bringing more paperwork and preparation.

"Knowing that the USDA is constantly updating things, we may think it's okay today, and all of a sudden you look at it and go, 'Oh no. What happened? We have to change this,'" Anderson said.

But Anderson hopes the changes will pay off and lead students such as Sylliaasen to learn a few lessons on healthier eating.

"I've never really thought about it, but I like it with more fruit and stuff," Sylliaasen said.

Critics of the new guidelines say they will drive up prices and cause more school food waste.

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