New guidelines require changes to school lunches

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PITTSBURGH —

The new school menu guidelines are leaving a bitter taste for some students and parents.

The US Department of Agriculture  guidelines now require schools nationwide to offer lunches with more fruit and vegetables, fewer calories, less sodium, more whole grains.

The new rules, built around recommendations from experts with the Institute of Medicine, also call for reducing saturated fat and trans fat, and offering only fat-free or low-fat milk.

Pittsburgh Public Schools recently had a workshop to prepare their staff for the changes, even bringing in local chefs to inspire their food service staff. 

“We are in the process right now of increasing our portions of fruits and vegetables, serving whole grain products, fat free flavored and non-flavored milks, cutting down on the calories that we serve the students,” explained food service director Curtistine Walker. 

Officials with the USDA Food and Nutrition hope the changes will reduce obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Recent data shows 17 percent of students are obese.

Walker said right now there will be no immediate increase in costs for students.

“We'll have to see how the children are taking the fruits and vegetables, how they are accepting the whole grains, are we going to have to buy different products that might cost more money,” she said.

Channel 11 found the price is going up in other school districts.

Ringgold School District is raising the price of breakfast and lunch by 20 cents each.  So is the Fox Chapel Area School District.

At Seneca Valley, K-6th grade students will pay 15 cents more per lunch, and 7-12 graders will pay 25 cents more.

The changes are a tough sell to students used to larger portions and more carbs, but Walker hopes they will lead to happier and healthier students.

“We are excited. We are ready to meet this challenge. Our employees are excited. We just hope everyone loves the new things that we are going to be doing,” she said.

Channel 11 has already received complaints across the area that the smaller portion sizes are not enough, especially for athletes or older students who were used to larger sizes and more food.

Students and parents also said fruit is being tossed in the trash, or if students don’t buy it, they are charged a higher al a cart price.

However, the federal government said the changes reflect are designed to get kids to eat healthier and learn what is needed for a lifetime of health.

They are the first changes to the school menu in 15 years.