Salty chips. Candy bars. Full-calorie sodas.
Don’t expect to find any of this in schools anymore — not in hot lunches, not in vending machines, not even in high school snack bars.
Schools across the nation are preparing to work with stricter standards for nutrition from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as part of a nationwide campaign championed by first lady Michelle Obama to eliminate empty calories. The new standards took effect Tuesday for all schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program and will build off previously implemented standards that limited serving sizes and restricted what food was healthy enough for the program.
What can students expect to find? Wheat bread, low-calorie drinks, meals with limited sugar, fat and salt.
Some district officials are saying they’re all for healthy food, but they have to sell enough hot lunches to break even on their program — and that won’t work if the kids shun the food. They also are a little prickly about federal officials telling them what to do.
“We believe that proper food nutrition and meal portion guidelines are best decided at a local level,” said Rick Petfalski, School Board president for the Muskego-Norway School District.
Opting out of the program means Muskego-Norway will no longer receive federal money for its meals, but it also means the district is free to serve whatever it wants.
Already losing money because fewer kids were buying the meals, the district will now have to cover the cost of free and reduced lunches on its own. It will do this partly by spending less on foods that students don’t eat and — they believe — increasing the number of kids buying lunches by providing tastier meals.