D51 changes menu for healthier kids
By Kathleen Goddeyne -
School District 51 has been changing their menu for the past several years, putting them ahead of the game when it comes to the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act or Public Law 111-296.
The law, which went into effect for the 2012 school year, calls for a reduction in sodium, more fruits and vegetables, and less than 1 percent milk.
In order to meet the new guidelines, School District 51 has been phasing out high sodium, processed food items such as Frito pie, nachos, and chicken nuggets.
“These are things that have played a part in the growing childhood obesity epidemic,” said Dan Sharp, Food Service Director for D51. “We’ve been anticipating this for several years and we started changing the menu items. We didn’t want all of the changes to hit the students all at once.”
The new change requires that half of the students’ lunch trays be fruits and vegetables. In D51’s case, these items are fresh. For the last several years, D51 has been buying local produce from Loma and Fruita orchards.
Another change D51 made before the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act was even established had to do with whole grain. At least 51 percent of grain items are required to be whole grain. The district has also been purchasing more proteins such as chicken, cheese and beef with no additives or breading.
“I’m glad we started early,” Sharp said. “Other schools across the country are getting strong kickback because it’s a complete change. A lot of kids and families are used to these high-carb type dishes.”
Some D51 parents have been disgruntled about the changes, but many parents are happy to see the change.
“Because the sodium levels are so reduced, the food tastes different to them (D51 students),” Sharp said.
Lunch prices have risen slightly due to the fact that fruits and vegetables have a higher cost of purchase. Elementary school students pay $2.35, middle school students pay $2.50, and high school students pay $2.75.
“It’s (school lunch prices) still cheaper than if a parent put those items in a packed lunch,” said Sharp.
D51 will manage the decrease in sodium to hit certain targets outlined by Public Law 111-296 each year.