Johnson City, NY (WBNG Binghamton) New USDA guidelines are now in place for healthier meals at school for your kids.
The efforts are through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act championed by the First Lady, Michelle Obama and signed by President Barack Obama.
Students now must choose at least one fruit or vegetable among the three meal components they have to take for a complete lunch. Kids are also encouraged to choose more fruits and vegetables if they like.
"The new guidelines went into effect in July. We started implementing them in September when school started. Overall they are going very well. They focus on incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables, different sub-groups of the vegetables including dark greens, orange and red and also focusing on more whole-grains," said Julie Tucker, Registered Dietitian, Broome-Tioga BOCES.
The guidelines cut down on fat, sodium and sugar as well as reduce portion size.
"Some of our menu items include yogurt meals which are very nutritious. They are high in calcium. They also have a lot of fresh fruits which provide nutrients they need to learn," said Tucker, "The new guidelines are important in providing healthier meals to students and providing nutritious meals that they need every single day."
The new requirements for K-12 for fruits and vegetables including 3/4 to one cup of vegetables plus 1/2 cut to one cup of fruit per day.
At least 50 percent of all grain foods schools serve are now whole-grain rich. Within two years, all of the grains will be whole-grain rich.
"For example some of our option for pizza will include low fat cheese with whole grain crust. There will be kid-friendly options in the school," said Tucker.
In the Johnson City school district, healthier options are nothing new.
"We've been implementing healthier foot options over the last few years so it's not a big shock to our students," said Bryan McCoy, Food Service Supervisor, "But these new changes have been going over very well. We've actually seen in an increase in participation at the breakfast level by about one percent and lunch participation stayed about even from last year."
There is now a calorie range for meals for students.
550-650 (grades K-5)
600-700 (grades 6-8)
750-850 (grades 9-12)
350-500 (grades K-5)
400-550 (grades 6-8)
450-600 (grades 9-12)
This is the first time in 15 years the USDA has made major changes to school meals.
The Farm to You Fest 2012 is taking place this week in schools in New York. It's a week-long celebration of local food and agriculture.
BOCES schools in Broome and Tioga counties are featuring local products on their menus including Chobani yogurt. Chobani is made in the Town of Columbus in Chenango County.