Pine River-Backus meals will be changing as a result of new nationwide school nutrition standards.
Food Service Director Brenda Anderson reported to the school board, Monday, that there are new guidelines to be implemented, including changes to portion size and menu items.
At least half of the grains offered must be whole grain in the National School Lunch Program by July 1, and all grains must be whole grain by July 1, 2014.
A few items that were served this school year won't qualify next fall because they lack whole grains. Those items include lasagna, soup in a bread bowl, cheese bread and foot long hotdogs. The lasagna noodles aren't whole grain and neither are the bread bowls, bread for the cheese bread or hotdog buns.
The new nutrition standards also include different portion sizes for grades K-5, 6-8, and 9-12. This may be particularly cumbersome at breakfast time when students from a variety of ages are being served during the same time period, Anderson explained.
Aside from a vegetable requirement, the new standards categorize types of vegetables into subgroups. There is a weekly requirement for each vegetable subgroup including dark green vegetables; red/orange vegetables; beans/peas; starches like corn and potatoes; and the "other" category which includes celery, cucumbers, iceberg lettuce and mushrooms, for example. The requirement will be for 3/4-1 cup of vegetables a day, as opposed to a requirement of 1/2-3/4 cup daily of fruit and vegetables combined.
Anderson said she is worried about waste if students throw away vegetables they are served but do not like.
The amount of salt allowed will be reduced in a prescribed manner between 2014 and 2022.
Anderson said that she hasn't had salt on the tables or added salt to any of the food in years. However, some items that they purchase - such as soup - will exceed the allowed sodium amounts under the new guidelines. Food manufacturers will have to make changes to comply with the school nutrition standards.
In the past, menus had to meet a minimum calorie count. Now there is an upper limit as well. Anderson said they might need to portion out condiments, like ketchup and salad dressing, to prevent meals from exceeding the upper calorie limit.
In mid-March Anderson orders commodities for the following year. Commodities are purchased by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and provided to schools at a minimum cost. USDA foods include meat, poultry and eggs, cheese, fruits and vegetables, grains and oils.
The school will be allowed to use up the commodities already ordered this year.
Anderson said she and her staff will attend training this summer to learn more about the new guidelines.
Aside from the new nutrition standards, PR-B will also have to raise its meal prices by 5 cents in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade towards reaching federally mandated prices. This fall pre-kindergarten through fourth-grade lunch will cost $1.40; lunch for grades 5-12 will cost $1.45.
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