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School Cafeterias: More Fruit, Less Mystery Meat

Posted Oct 14 2012 6:39pm

From The Hartford Courant…..

School dietitians are getting creative in the kitchen to meet federal health rules, but some Connecticut students are trashing the new menus — literally.

“Since they started that, I haven’t been eating lunch,” said Michaela Frasier, an 18-year-old senior at Hillhouse High School in New Haven. “Sometimes … I just throw my lunch away or I give it away.”

The new guidelines, which took effect July 1, are the first major changes by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 15 years. They come under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, championed by first lady Michelle Obama.

The regulations call for daily fruits and vegetables and more whole grains. Schools can offer only fat-free or low-fat milk and must limit calories based on students’ ages. The rules also call for reducing saturated and trans fats and sodium.

As a result, the country’s 32 million students who participate in meal programs have seen changes on the school lunch line. Portions of protein, like meat, are smaller. Fruits and vegetables are plentiful. The amount of grain is growing. And salt is being slashed.

In Connecticut, an outcry came recently when West Hartford students noticed that pickles were nowhere to be found when hamburgers were served. Food Services Director Trish Molloy said that the pickle chips — high in sodium, low in nutritional value — were an easy target to remove to help meet the new rules.

There has been plenty of feedback in the state and nationwide — and some of it has been quite sour.

“I bring my own lunch. I don’t trust (school lunch),” said Hillhouse ninth-grader Trevon Dawson, 14. “The mac and cheese, I tried it. It wasn’t cheesy at all.”

A “We Are Hungry” video made by high school students in Kansas got more than 950,000 hits on YouTube. In the parody, a girl playing volleyball after school pretends that she’s passing out on the court. The students explain that they feel the protein and carbohydrate limitations do no provide enough fuel.

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