School lunches are not what they used to be; they’re better.
As students file into the lunch line in the North Reading High School cafeteria they are finding more than just a hot or cold lunch option. Students are able to choose from a variety of healthier options including a made-to-order sandwich, and Director of Food Services Anna McGovern oversees the line reminding students to add a fruit or vegetable to their lunch tray.
To improve health and combat childhood obesity, the National School Lunch program and USDA have set new requirements for school districts to follow when it comes to school lunches. As part of the National School Lunch program, the North Reading School district adheres to these guidelines and now incorporates more fruits, vegetables, grains and fewer calories into school lunches.
“These changes result from changes in the federal laws that pertain to school lunch programs,” Director of Finance & Operations Carl Nelson said. “These are the first menu alterations that have been made to school lunch programs in at least 15 years. We have many new menu offerings and we are noticing that students are beginning to adjust to the many new menu items that we’re serving.”
The guidelines are different for students in grades K-5, 6-8 and 9-12, but most of them aim to provide more deeply colored, nutrient dense and fiber rich fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. The guidelines also aim to reduce unhealthy fats, sodium and sugar, according to a school lunch menu.
Here are just a few of the specific changes:
- milk must be one percent and flavored milk must be fat free
- snacks must be under 200 calories
- juices have to be four ounces as opposed to 10
“It’s like anything else, we have to teach them how to eat, to fill their plates with more fruits and veggies,” McGovern said.
Last Friday at the high school, students were able to choose from cheese, pepperoni or zucchini and summer squash pizza, hot sandwiches or salads. They also have three fruit and vegetable bars with various options to choose from. If they do not like any of the options already made for them, they can have a sandwich made right in front of them. The sandwich bar includes various meats, toppings and breads. Take a look at the photos attached to get a better glimpse into what is being served in the high school cafeteria.
McGovern says that more than half of the students are liking the change, but she would like to see more students buying lunch at school.
A high school student can buy lunch for $3 and a middle school student can buy lunch for $2.75. Elementary school students pay $2.50. However, students aren’t paying with cash at lunchtime. They simply state their name to the cashier and money is deducted from the account parents set up and maintain online. Add money to a student account at myschoolbucks.com. It is also possible to see what your child is ordering every day for lunch through that website.
Curious about free or reduced lunch? If you think you qualify, stop by the business office at the middle school for more information.