Portales schools concerned about meal standards

>By Lillian Bowe
Staff writer
lbowe@pntonline.com

Changes to the nutritional standards of school lunches are causing concern among Portales Municipal Schools nutritional services.

Director of Nutritional Services Shirley King said the school will have to increase the amount of fruit and whole grain foods to the breakfasts and lunches for the 2014-2015 school year.

King said the nutritional standards are a benefit to the children, as childhood obesity needs to be combated, but the portions for fruit at breakfast are too big.

“For breakfast a kid will have to get a four-ounce juice and a whole apple to meet a requirement of a cup and this is for all ages,” King said.

The new nutritional guidelines were passed in 2012 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which increased the amount of fruit, vegetables and whole grains and reduced the amount of salt and fat in school breakfast and lunch.

Last year, the schools met the nutritional guidelines and were given a 6 cents per meal incentive. The increase of fruit and whole grain will be implemented for the 2014-2015 school year.

“We have seen a lot more waste as the kids are not used to eating so much fruit and vegetables,” King said.

Patty Morris, director of New Mexico Department of Health’s Office of Nutrition and Physical Activity, said the waste of food will go down as it takes time for children to get accustomed to new foods.

“It takes nine to 11 times of being exposed to a new food for children as well as adults to accept it,” Morris said.

Morris said the increases are necessary in order to prevent childhood obesity and diseases linked to obesity and getting the children to eat the food will take time and education.

The acceptance of having 100 percent of all grains being whole will also take time for children, but according to Rita Condon, program coordinator at Healthy Kids New Mexico, a project of the NMDOH, she says whole grains are essential.

“The white flour breads kids are use to eating have the fiber taken out and fiber promotes digestive health and regulation. Fiber is important for combating childhood obesity,” Condon said.

King said many of the whole grain products they buy, the children eat them and there is not too much of an issue with it.

“We use to have burritos for lunch with flour tortillas and then we would make up for the grains later in the week. Now we completely took out the burritos. We have not found good enough whole grain tortillas,” King said.

King said the new increase will cause more difficulty when planning the menu for the school year. The school has already had to make menus on a three-week rotation. The meals repeat every three weeks.

“With all the requirements we have to follow, it is very difficult to create a menu,” King said.

Morris said getting the children to accept the new requirements will take time and it will be a lot of hard work, but it is important to keep the youth of New Mexico healthy.