Richmond-area schools aim to make meals healthier despite relaxed nutrition requirements | Education

Richmond-area faculty divisions proceed to serve healthy food choices despite federal modifications to nutrition requirements in class meals.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue introduced in May that the federal Department of Agriculture can be giving faculty divisions extra flexibility in nutrition requirements for college meals beginning this yr. The flexibility particularly targets the sodium ranges in meals, entire grains and flavored milk.

“This announcement is the result of years of feedback from students, schools, and food service experts about the challenges they are facing in meeting the final regulations for school meals,” Perdue stated in a May press launch touting the transfer with a headline utilizing the administration’s coined phrase. “If kids aren’t eating the food, and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren’t getting any nutrition – thus undermining the intent of the program.”

Richmond-area faculty divisions, although, say they’re working to make faculty meals healthier than ever, despite the Trump administration’s push to loosen up the healthy requirements.

“We are just continuing as we are, understanding that there are a lot of good things to this program,” stated Peggy Gordon, the nutrition providers director for Henrico County Public Schools.

“Everything is still the same,” stated Susan Roberson, the director of faculty nutrition providers for Richmond Public Schools.

“We’re staying the course,” stated Dana Whitney, the food providers director for Hanover County Public Schools.

Not a lot has modified, stated Warren Grigg, the director of food and nutrition providers for Chesterfield County Public Schools.

The new steerage put out by the USDA – despatched to regional and state administrators of kid nutrition packages on the finish of May – isn’t a repeal of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, an Obama-era regulation that set new nutrition requirements for schools throughout the U.S., particularly tightening restrictions on sugar, fats and sodium. Schools have been required to meet sure ranges of nutrition, whereas the brand new steerage provides schools the selection. Instead, the brand new steerage is supposed to give schools extra freedom of their food nutrition.

“And here’s the thing about local control: it means that this new flexibility will give schools and states the option of doing what we’re laying out here today,” Perdue stated. “These are not mandates on schools.”

In the Richmond space, divisions are selecting to maintain the healthier meals. A USDA spokeswoman didn’t return a request for touch upon if rollout of the brand new tips had gone as deliberate.

That doesn’t imply divisions nonetheless aren’t dealing with challenges when it comes to scholar meals. Getting an elementary scholar to eat their greens nonetheless takes added effort, like Richmond Public Schools’ use of the favored Mrs. Dash seasoning to add taste to greens or Hanover’s construct your personal burrito bowl choice that you simply’d usually discover in a Moe’s Southwest Grill or Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Students, in fact, aren’t pressured to eat the fruit and veggies they’re required to take for lunch. Lunches should have a meat or meat alternate, a vegetable, a fruit, a grain and milk.

A 2014 Harvard School of Public Health research confirmed that extra college students have been consuming vegatables and fruits, however about 60-75 % of greens and 40 % of fruit in college students’ meals have been being thrown away.

A Chesterfield center faculty is working to combat the alarming quantity of waste by way of a school-wide compost program that has already stopped about 750 kilos of vegatables and fruits from discovering their method to a landfill, as an alternative discovering second life in soil deliberate for a faculty backyard.

There’s additionally the elevated value of healthy meals. Nutrition requirements value faculty divisions and states an additional $1.2 billion in 2015, in accordance to the USDA.

“Fresh fruits and vegetables are always a pricey item, but it’s the job of school and nutrition professionals to create a well-rounded menu that includes all those items,” stated Whitney, the Hanover food providers director.

Meals at college can function nearly all of a scholar’s nutrition, stated Sonya Islam, a dietician on the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University. This will increase the significance, Islam stated, of schools paying consideration to what their college students are consuming.

“Kids need good quality food in order to learn effectively,” she stated.

The requirements in place underneath the Obama-era laws give college students the vitamins they want, she added. All 4 faculty nutrition administrators interviewed by The Times-Dispatch echoed the necessity for healthy meals within the cafeteria.

“Schools aren’t just concerned anymore with slapping food on a tray and checking off a box,” stated Islam.

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