New standards were introduced into the school system late summer for introduction into all school cafeterias for the 2012-13 school year.
These new standards were mandated from the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act and are requirements coming directly from the United States Department of Agriculture as a part of the act.
Regulations include age-appropriate calorie limits, larger servings of fruits and vegetables, a wider variety of fruits and vegetables to choose from, fat free or 1 percent milk, more whole grains, no trans fat in any menu item and less sodium.
Ruth Taylor, area supervisor of Fulton County Schools nutrition, said many of the standards the system had already enforced, such as the introduction of more whole grains into the menu. The new regulations, she said, will simply give them a chance to improve upon the past.
“A lot of these we have been doing already,” she said. “We have to limit saturated fats to less than 10 percent of the total amount of calories and offer more whole grains. Flavored milk, if we offer it, must be fat free.”
Serving sizes of fruits and veggies offered will also increase, to a minimum of one cup per day, totaling to five cups per week.
“Students will have to pick up a serving of a veggie of fruit,” said Taylor. “It will not be considered a complete lunch until they do.”
These changes will be worked upon over a long period of time, Taylor said.
Decreasing the levels of sodium in meals is another one of the crucial areas for needed improvement.
Currently, the average baseline for sodium levels in breakfast for elementary students is 573 mg, in comparison to 629 mg and 686 mg for middle and high students, respectively.
Average sodium in lunch meals is higher with 1,377 mg for elementary students and 1,520 mg and 1,588 mg for middle and high students, respectively.
The goal is to decrease the sodium in meals up to 54 percent by the 2022-23 school year.
Thus far, the feedback from students has been mostly positive, Taylor said.
“I was anticipating a little bit more resistance about students having to take fruits or veggies,” she said. “Some thought it would increase waste. From all my visits, it has been a seamless transition. We make sure our menus have a variety of choices so students will be able to pick one they do like and try it.”