Posted at: 08/09/2012 6:37 PM
Updated at: 08/09/2012 6:50 PM
By: Dan Conradt
Changes Coming for School Lunches
(ABC 6 News) -- For many kids, it's the most critical part of the school day. And this year, it's going to get healthier. School lunch is about to change.
"Starting this year they must have a half cup minimum of either a fruit or a vegetable on their tray," said Austin schools food service director Mary Weikum
It's part of the new federal school lunch guidelines that also call for fewer calories, up to 650 for younger students, 850 for high schoolers. It meant re-thinking the menu.
"We really looked at portion sizes carefully. we've also added a fresh fruit every day of the week. In the past we've had fresh fruit three days a week," Weikum explained.
And kids know the difference between healthy foods ...”Oranges and an apple,” Sumner Elementary school second grader Owen Haney told us … and those that are not,” “Cake and a cheeseburger."
“It makes me feel happy in my tummy and when I eat good stuff, and when I eat bad stuff it makes me feel bad in my tummy," added Sumner second grader Olin Davis.
And from Owen Haney: “It makes your brain think.”
And that's important in a school district like Austin, where more than half of the students qualify for free and reduced price lunch, and the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables might keep them off the menu at home.
"So if they took everything that was offered in the fruit and vegetable cart they would be well on the way to getting their fruit serving for the entire day at the school lunch," said Weikum.
And this year’s school lunch menu will feature more than the old standbys of apples, oranges and bananas.
"We have watermelon on the menu, cantaloupe on the menu, we're going to try some apricots this year," Weikum explained. And the goal is to get kids to discover something they might not otherwise.
"And go home and say hey, mom, we had this today. we loved it, can we have it at home?”
Since schools also pay higher prices for fresh fruits and vegetables, it remains to be seen what the new guidelines might mean for school lunch prices.