Cafeteria Changes Coming in Huntington
Change is coming to the food service program in the Huntington School District. New federal regulations require schools to offer a greater variety of nutritious foods such as fruits and vegetables and whole grains and to adhere to stringent limits on saturated fat and portion sizes.
"The new meal pattern mandates are part of a strategy to create a healthier school environment, which will promote a healthy lifestyle that will help children succeed in the classroom," Charles A. Szuberla, Jr., a State Education Dept. assistant commissioner in the Office of School Operations, wrote in a letter to school officials across the state.
The new regulations are the result of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. "This is a complex and prescriptive rule, which requires schools to assure Congress and the public that the nutritional quality of school meals has improved sufficiently to warrant the allocation of additional funds," Mr. Szuberla said. "Compliance with the new meal pattern is not optional."
Further changes will be phased in during coming years. Effective October 1, districts are required to submit their menus to the State Education Department for approval in order to obtain an additional six cents of aid per lunch meal. SED will be conducting "validation reviews" of 25 percent of school districts statewide during the 2012/13 school year to check on whether the meals served are in compliance with the new regulations.
Some of the changes include:
• Chocolate milk must be fat free.
• Only fat free and low fat milk will be available.
• There will be a greater variety and larger servings of fruits and vegetables, including dark green, red-orange, legumes and other vegetables.
• Saturated fat will be limited.
• Portion sizes will be individualized for K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 grade levels. The portion limitations will be aligned with established minimum and maximum daily caloric levels per lunch.
• Half the grains of each meal must be whole grain rich.
• Artificial trans fats will not be used.
Huntington School Board members awarded a bid for district food services during the 2012/13 school year to Whitsons Culinary Group, which was the lowest responsible bidder.
The district expects to meet the new federal regulations without any difficulty. "Whitsons is well aware of these requirements," Superintendent James W. Polansky said.