Schools see challenges in healthier lunches

Posted January 25, 2012

— School lunches are getting a little healthier with new nutrition guidelines, but school system administrators say healthier menu options could pose challenges.

The new rules, officially announced Wednesday by first lady Michelle Obama, mean school lunches subsidized by the federal government will include more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fewer calories and less sodium in an effort to fight childhood obesity.

Marilyn Moody, senior director of the Wake County Public School System's Child Nutrition Services, said she is excited to see the changes, many of which the district has been working to implement over the past several years, such as whole wheat pizza dough.

One of the challenges, however, is getting students to opt for the healthier choices, Moody said. It's a bigger problem in high schools, where students have more options, including off-campus dining.

Another problem, Moody said, is getting the funding to pay for more nutritional alternatives.

A child nutrition bill signed by President Barack Obama in 2010 will help school districts pay for some of the increased costs, but it's still unclear how much extra it will cost and where that money will come from. It could possibly come from cuts in other areas of the school budget, or parents could have to pay more.

School lunch Schools see challenges in healthier lunches

That has parents split on the issue.

"I don't really want it to cost more," grandparent Dan Girard said. "If you can (do it) without costing more, that would be great."

"I think, when it comes to your child's nutrition, a couple dollars isn't a big deal," mother Emily Drew said.

In addition to moving toward healthier options, Moody said, the school system has applied for its 103 elementary schools to be a part of the HealthierUS School Challenge, an initiative in which schools implement wellness policies focusing on physical activity, nutritional education and healthier meals that include less fat, sugar and sodium.

More than 2,100 schools across the United States are part of the challenge, but only 13 of those are in North Carolina.

The program doesn't currently offer any kind of funding or incentives for being a healthy school, but Moody said it is more about gaining the recognition.


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  • alwaysamused Feb 1, 2012

    If parents feed their kids healthful foods at home, their kids will eat healthful foods at school. If you want your kids to be unhealthy, obese and mentally/physically sluggish, keep feeding them the white flour, sodium and fat. Oh, and keep giving them the cheap McDonald's food everyone keeps raving about.

  • readme Jan 31, 2012

    The solution is simple. Don't give them any choices. Offer low cost, healthy food. When I went to school ages ago, I only had one choice. It was pretty healthy, with reasonable portion sizes. Also, I reject the idea that healthy doesn't equal low cost. Frozen vegetables aren't expensive. Also, omit caloric sauces and save money.

  • courtneyd137 Jan 31, 2012

    the food is already pre cooked processed food why not make something from scratch

  • courtneyd137 Jan 31, 2012

    The lunch already cost 2.25 and you barely get anything. The food is getting to taste TERRIBLE to where it makes some people sick to where they can't eat. you used to get 2 cheese sticks for 2.25 now you get 1 and 2 vegtables like really thats stupid. You can go to mcdonalds and get 2 double cheeseburgers and a fry for $3 its a waste of money and if you want a little something extra you have to pay a whole $ for it. If you only want like a sandwitch and not a full meal you have to pay $3 just for not getting a full meal.. The food isnt worth the money

  • mandynae Jan 30, 2012

    My opinion is that we cannot expect to feed our children a healthy lunch at a cost of $2/day for regular lunch, and $.40/day for reduced lunches. Those are the current elementary lunch costs in Wake County, and they are about $.25 more in middle and high school. I have 2 school-aged children, and with rare exception, I pack their lunches every day. And I assure you, there are mornings that I wish I could just slap $2 in their hand and be done with it. But I know that if I don't pack them a somewhat healthy lunch, they won't get one. A healthy lunch for my kids cost $3.00 - $3.50 per day per child. That includes a lunch of sandwich (with good bread, meat, cheese and as many veggies as I think they will eat), or soup in a thermos, some fruit, something crunchy (pretzels, popcorn), and something sweet (a few Teddy Grahams). If I can't do healthy for less than $3/day, why should I expect the school system to do it?

  • S82R Jan 30, 2012

    This program is so effective that my middle school son says his favorite meal is chicken filet sandwiches...his favorite because the kids hate the wheat buns so bad they throw them away and eat the chicken filet between 2 chocolate chip cookies instead.

    If it doesn't taste good the kids won't eat it. I also agree about made from scratch meals vs the heat and serve meals being offered today. My mother is a former school cafeteria manager and now works in the school as an aide and she regularly complains about the quality of food- everything comes in a bag or is simply heated and served it seems. On cost- I ate breakfast at school with my son one day and the chicken (supposedly) biscuit I ate was $1.25... I can get a better biscuit made from processed chicken at McD's for less!

  • davido Jan 30, 2012

    This change is long overdue. Also, fruit juices are not much better than soda, as they are also full of sugar. Even if it's not added sugar it is still highly concentrated. Diet drinks are also not a good option. However, chocolate milk, that prince of foods, is always on my list of infinite goodness. Just sayin.

  • SMAPAEA Jan 27, 2012

    I enjoyed being able to eat creme filled donuts and fruit punch for lunch 20 years ago....ah middle school and high school. The salad bar days were a treat though.

  • nadianye Jan 27, 2012

    If the school lunch programs would server "real Food" and not all that frozen boxed garbage our children might get a healthy meal. As a former cafeteria worker in the school system Its a shame. 95% of what is served as a main dish is processed frozen food. Breakfast that is served at school is something I as a parent find unacceptable at home..Once again its all frozen pastries, biscuits and cereal. Go back to cooking with real foods and you might see a change in the quality of food and the weight gain in our children due to school lunches. The argument that its only a meal or 2 a day at school is not valid from my stand point as I worked in the system last year and ate lunch at school everday and GAINED weight something I haven't done in years.

  • storchheim Jan 26, 2012

    bigal, you made used milk come out my nose!