New guidelines change school lunches in Cartersville
by Cheree Dye
Aug 05, 2014 | 2912 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For the past month, Cartersville City School System has prepared for the school nutrition changes to be implemented in the upcoming school year. Released in July, the newest phase of guidelines are a result of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

The guidelines have been carried out in stages starting in 2012 and were drawn from recommendations from the Institute of Medicine. Some of the significant changes surround the snacks sold at school. Each snack must meet the federally regulated criteria, which include a limit of 200 or less calories, 230 milligrams or less of sodium, 0 grams of trans fats and the total fat must be less than 35 percent of the calories with saturated fat less than 10 percent of calories. Additionally, the sugar cannot exceed 35 percent of the weight from total sugars.

The changes affect items sold in vending machines, the ice cream cart and snack shops in all Cartersville schools. In an effort to meet the new standards but also offer appealing options, Jamba Juice smoothies and lowfat yogurt will be introduced at the middle school and fresh fruit and vegetable smoothies will be made at the high school.

Tracey Morris, director of nutrition for Cartersville City Schools said, “There will be no more candy sold at school and the principals are all on board. There are some new allowable additions kids will see, for instance at the high school Diet Cokes, chewing gum and popsicles will be sold. In the past at the middle school we had sports drinks without the sugar but now we cannot have those until the high school level.”

The new acceptable drinks are water, unflavored low-fat milk, unflavored or flavored fat-free milk and milk alternatives, 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice and 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice diluted with water and no added sweetners. The elementary school may sell up to 8-ounce portions, while the middle and high school can offer up to 12-ounce portions of milk and juice.

At the high school, students are given several more options of no calorie or lower calorie drinks. No more than 20 ounces of calorie-free flavored water and other flavored beverages that contain less than 5 calories per 8 ounces or 10 calories per 20 ounces. Twelve-ounce portions of drinks that contain 40 calories for 8 ounces or 60 calories for 12 ounces will be offered.

The act also mandates changes to the breakfast and lunch meals sold in the Cartersville system. Every bread item sold must be 100 percent whole grain, including pizza, cookies and tortillas.

“The whole grain requirements are the real challenge for us. The bread is not difficult but the pizza and cookies are because children are not accustomed to eating those made entirely of whole grain,” Morris said.

The cafeterias within the Cartersville system operate on the revenue earned from sales and federal funds. In other systems, the food service is funded in part by the board of education.

“We are self-sustaining and have been for at least 15 years. It concerns me that if the changes are not well received it will affect our ability to run independent of board funding,” Morris said. “We have already made big changes in our staffing. All new employees are employed through a staffing agency, which helps offset our personnel costs.

“That is why it is important for us to do everything we can to make the meals as good and appealing as possible while meeting the requirements. At the high school, the seniors can leave for lunch so we are competing with all the fast food restaurants around.”

One of the biggest forms of revenue came from the á la carte sales, which included items like chicken tenders and fries. Under the new guidelines, á la carte items are no longer allowed, leaving Morris to search for healthy, suitable ways to replace the sales the items generated.

Chris Waits, Cartersville Middle School cafeteria manager, said, “I have managed at the middle school for the past 13 years and these are the most significant changes I have seen yet. It makes it very tricky for us to meet all the standards but also serve the children things they will eat. Food waste is one of the biggest challenges we are trying to combat.”

The guidelines will have no impact on food brought from home, treats brought for school celebrations or snacks sold during after-school events.