More than a month into the new healthier standards for school lunches, Marshalltown Community School District Foodservice Director Vickie McVey said things are going well.
As a result of new USDA standards, there must be bigger portions of fruits and vegetables available as well as calorie limits for meals, using more whole grains and fat free milk.
The change wasn't dramatic locally as Marshalltown was already heading toward healthier standards in recent years.
T-R PHOTO BY ANDREW POTTER
Myles Mitchell, 12, a seventh grader at Miller Middle School, puts some lettuce on his tray for lunch at the school Thursday. Healthier standards have been in place this fall in schools with more fruits and vegetables offered.
"We started moving towards the new requirements about a year and half ago and we have been doing fat free milk for several years," McVey said.
McVey said one challenge has been meeting the specific food regulations. For example, there are five different groups of vegetables and a required amount of servings each week from each of the groups.
"The key is getting the menus to follow the regulation and making sure you have all of your components in the proper amount," she said.
Anson Elementary School is taking on a challenge to become a healthier U.S. school and that challenge requires serving more fresh fruit to students. McVey said they decided to go with more fresh fruit throughout the district, not just at Anson, to have more a uniform menu.
"It costs just a little bit more, but we'll make it work," McVey said.
Cindy Seberger, supervisor of the Miller Middle School cafeteria, said they give students a few options of fruits and vegetables to choose from and allow them to pick their own.
"They pick what they like," Seberger said. "I think they are eating healthier."
The fresh fruits are the favorites of Miller students, especially strawberries. She also said many are taking a liking to some of the vegetable offerings, such as sliced cucumbers.
"They are broadening their horizons," Seberger said.
McVey feels the increased portions of fruits and vegetables and the other healthier standards will be good for students in the long run.
"Our school meals are nutritious, so it can't help but be healthier for them," McVey said.