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It’s been 15 years since the U.S. Department of Agriculture made changes to the public school lunch requirements. Some say it’s monumental, some say it’s about time.
Last week the USDA announced new standards for school lunches including requiring all grains to be whole grain, doubling the amount of fruit and vegetable servings and all milk needing to be low fat, among other requirements.
The Bremerton School District said focusing on healthier eating and good nutrition has been on the forefront for a while. Students probably won’t see any drastic changes, said Lisa Johnson, supervisor of child nutrition services with the district.
“None of these are new,” Johnson said. “They proposed rules a year ago, so we knew what was coming.”
In Feburary, elementary students in the city will still see choices of lunch items such as cheese pizza, barbecue rib sandwiches, meatball sandwiches, stuffed cheese sticks, ham and cheese hot pockets and chicken fried steak on many menu days.
The school district also hosts a salad bar every day.
Johnson said Washington state has been further ahead than a lot of other states in terms of providing more nutritious options in the schools including reducing sodium and increasing fiber. She said schools have been working on lowering fat content “for years.”
Bremerton schools already offer pizza with whole grain crusts and buns that are multi-grain. They also currently offer 1 percent and fat free milk. If a child requires more fat in milk from a doctor’s note, that arrangement can be made, Johnson said.
The Central Kitsap School District also currently offers nonfat chocolate milk and 1 percent milk.
David Beil, spokesman for the Central Kitsap School District, said the district is waiting for clarification and guidance from the Child Nutrition Program with the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction on how to go about the new USDA requirements and when they will take effect.
While schools support the USDA changes, Johnson said the new regulations could increase costs for the district. The food cost for one meal is about $1 and the new requirements could increase it between 15 and 50 cents, she said.
“We’re all working on stringent budgets,” Johnson said. “I think it’s always a challenge to increase something when the funding isn’t following that.”