Federal lunch rules will affect Wisconsin schools, part 2The USDA is promising that new school lunch standards will still require more fruits and vegetables in school cafeterias, despite Congressional action last week that likely weakened some of those plans.
By: By Kristen Durst, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
The USDA is promising that new school lunch standards will still require more fruits and vegetables in school cafeterias, despite Congressional action last week that likely weakened some of those plans. Central to the success of the new rules is getting kids to actually like and eat more healthful foods.
The federal government is proposing doubling the amount and fruits and vegetables that schools currently serve at lunch, and doubling the amount of fruits at breakfast. Currently schools are only required to serve 1/2 to one cup of a fruit or vegetable for lunch, and there's no requirement as to what type they serve.
The proposed new guidelines would bump that that up to at least 3/4 of a cup of vegetables PLUS at least 1/2 of a cup of fruit for lunch. Cindy Loechler, a Public Health Nutritionist for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, says they are also proposing keeping much closer track of what types of vegetables are served on a weekly basis.
"Now they are going to be breaking those down by categories. It's going to be the dark green vegetables, the red and orange vegetables," she says.
The last thing that schools and the government want to see is those extra fruits and veggies going in the trash. Jeanne Hopkins is Director of Food Service for the School District of Superior. She says that healthful habits take a while to form, and that persistence is key.
"Research shows that you generally have to introduce a vegetable to a child 17 times before they really will try it and learn to like it and enjoy it."
At the Al Berhman Elementary School in Baraboo, students are taking a brief pause from their studies to sample snap peas served with a side of low-fat ranch dressing. Many say they like fruits better than vegetables.
The school is one of 166 in Wisconsin this school year to receive a grant through the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. The federal program provides money for fruits and veggies to be sampled at schools that have high numbers of kids from low income families.
Out of a classroom full of students, on this day only a few turn up their noses at the peas. Although Food Service Director Mary Loveless learns that there are other tastings they've liked better.
Asked for their favorites, the kids name cucumbers, pineapples, and carrots.
Other programs are also working with schools to help increase fruit and vegetable consumption. Sara Tedeschi is the state Farm to School Director for UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems. She says Farm to School helps create interest by promoting locally grown foods that connect students with the source.
"Everything from school gardens to engaging farmers as educators to getting kids out on to farms we have chefs very active in communities in schools," she says. "Every manner of hands on kind of experiencial food and nutrition education."
Last week Congress blocked the USDA from implementing portions of its proposed school lunch standards. Despite that, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is promising that more fruits and vegetables will still be included.
And DPI's Loechler says that she thinks that more fruits and vegetables on the menu some people may just be surprised.
"I think it's just introducing it to the students, letting them try it, and we have to give our kids credit. I think they will eat a lot more than some of think," she says.
The new lunch standards are due out by early next year and would take effect in the 2012-2013 school year.