New research: School lunches are getting healthier, federal regulations working

Vitamins in school lunches rose 20 percent

DENVER - Lunchtime at school is not what it once was. 

Federal regulations have been on the books for about five years to make lunches healthier, and new research now shows those regulations are working.

"I would say our kids are definitely eating healthier," registered dietitian and Denver Public School Supervisor Jennifer Cook said.

The regulations went into effect in 2012 and mandated that lunches become better for kids. The research, published in JAMA Pediatrics, shows that the amount of fiber, protein and vitamins in school lunches rose nearly twenty percent. The amount of calories dropped nearly fifteen percent.

"It reaffirms that we implemented the legislation correctly and everyone is noticing -- the doctors and the USDA -- that the food is healthier," Denver Schools Food Services Director Theresa Hafner said.

How did they do it? Denver Public Schools installed fruit and salad bars in most schools, switched to whole grains in breads, and started making more of their food from scratch.

Researchers found that school lunch participation has also remained fairly steady despite all the changes, including increased costs for healthier food.

"While yes, the price may have gone up... but we like to think they're getting more for the price increase, such as the [food from] scratch cooking and all the fruits and vegetables," Hafner added.

Admittedly, the fight to make school food healthier is not over, both in Denver and across the country

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