There is a change coming to a school cafeteria near you.
The Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act takes effect in the 2013-14 school year and will require school lunches to be healthier for students.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the changes last week. The act was passed in 2010 but was delayed in being released after going through revisions and a public comment period.
Two of Colorado's largest school districts have already begun implementing the changes. JeffCo Public Schools and Denver Public Schools say they already abide by 90% of the changes being mandated.
"So we've known a lot of these changes were coming. So we've been implementing them in advance," said Linda Stoll, executive director of food services for JeffCo Public Schools.
Some of the big changes required by the new school lunch act are:
- All bread products must be whole grain
- All transfat must be cut from school lunches
- All milk must be low fat and flavored milk must be nonfat.
- Servings of fruits and vegetables will double
Stoll said there has been some getting used to for students with the changes.
"Sometimes you have to get kids used to changes," she said. "Whole grain tastes different from the white bread a lot of them have grown up with."
One of the hardest, and more than likely the most expensive, change will be requiring students to take a fruit and vegetable with their lunch.
"Next year they are going to be required to take a fruit and vegetable as they go through the line," Stoll said. "So I'm anticipating we are going to see some extra waste."
Healthier Lunches Cost More
Stoll said JeffCo Public Schools is anticipating the new healthier requirements will cost the school district 10 percent more annually for the food budget.
"It will be more expensive for us," she said. "Like I said we're about doubling the amount of fruits and vegetables we are offering."
JeffCo Public Schools serves 31,000 school lunches and 8,000 breakfasts daily. Their food budget is $13 million and will rise over $1 million more per year with the expected changes.
The USDA is offering school districts a small incentive bonus of six cents per meal if a school district meets all of their performance-based incentives.
But when tabulated, that equals less than $400,000 for JeffCo Public Schools.
"I don't anticipate that six cents a meal will cover the costs of it," Stoll said. "But it's an effort on their part and hopefully they realize it needs to be increased."
Denver Public Schools has an annual food budget of $15 million. The school district serves 46,400 school lunches and 20,000 breakfasts daily.
Kristy Armstrong, spokeswoman for Denver Public Schools, said the district is already in 98 percent compliance with the more stringent health requirements. She added she doesn't think the school district will be financially affected by the new act.
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