New Guidelines, New School Lunch Menus
When Minnesota students return to school this year, lunch will look different.
New federal guidelines require schools call for more fruits and vegetables, smaller portions of meat and grains, and fewer calories.
Debra Lukkonen, Supervisor of School Nutrition Programs for the Minnesota Department of Education explains that the new guidelines are due to a change in the food pyramid. She says, "the grains were the largest on the base of the pyramid. Well, that pyramid has kind of changed so that now fruits and vegetables are on the bottom."
Now schools are required to serve at least one fruit or vegetable and no more than one grain. The regulations also cap calories, whereas in the past there was only a calorie minimum. In addition, at least 50% of grains need to be "whole grain rich" under the new system. The guidelines also require schools to serve each of three vegetable groups per week: one bright red or orange, one dark leafy green, and one starchy vegetable.
The new rules are pushing schools to change. Jean Ronnei, Lunch Director for the Saint Paul School District explains, "it has been a challenging summer getting the menus aligned with the requirements. What I'm excited about is that we're now offering the meals that students and families should be eating everyday at home."
Since fruits and vegetables often cost more than grains, the government will reimburse school districts six cents for each healthy meal served.