MCPS Works to Meet Strict Nutritional Guidelines in Student Meals [AUDIO]
Starting next school year, pasta and other grain products in public schools will have to be whole-grain rich, or more than half whole grain. That includes rolls, biscuits, pizza crust, tortillas and even grits.
The requirement is part of a government effort to make school lunches and breakfasts healthier. Championed by first lady Michelle Obama, the new standards have been phased in over the last two school years, with more changes coming in 2014.
Supervisor of Food and Nutrition for Missoula School District One, Stacey Rossmiller, said the only real challenge her staff has faced with the new guidelines is a question of calories.
"In the past we've had a minimum number of calories that we've had to serve the kids, but now we have a maximum number of calories that we are allowed to serve," Rossmiller said. "We had already moved over to the whole-grain stuff as well as serving more fruits and vegetables, so that was where our big change came in."
Rossmiller said the change has brought some interesting feedback from students and their parents.
"I've actually had parents call and say their kids were coming home hungry because they aren't getting enough to eat," Rossmiller said. "But, they can have as many extra fruits and vegetables as they want, just not another entree. Tell that to a 17 year-old high school boy and you know how far that goes."
Rossmiller and her staff put out some impressive numbers as they feed Missoula's public schoolchildren.
"We average about 6,000 meals a day including breakfast and lunch, that's thousands and thousands of pounds of food," Rossmiller said. "By the end of the year, we will serve over one million meals to the kids in the school district at a yearly cost of about $1 to 1.5 million."
Rossmiller said the program is sustained mostly through state and federal funds, however, students are charged for their meals, and many qualify for free or reduced cost meals.
"Breakfast starts $1.45 and lunch can be as much as $2.50 per meal," Rossmiller said. "I challenge anybody to go through McDonald's or Wendy's and get a healthy, nutritious meal like we're serving their kids for that cost, because it's not going to happen."