Stricter requirements coming for school lunches

Stricter requirements coming for school lunches »Play Video
TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- Gone are the days of French toast, burritos, and pizza pockets for school lunch. Two years into the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, rules are getting tighter. Schools have to meet national nutrition standards, and the final changes will be implemented in time for the next school year. KEPR looked at what you can expect on your child's lunch tray.

Tana Hogan has four kids in school. Her three youngest all buy lunch.
They've been aware of all the changes made to make meals healthier.

"My kids really like the changes," said Tana. "They like that there's carrots with ranch available at lunch; they told me that they like the pizza better, it tastes better."

Yet students at Carmichael Middle School in Richland say they play carrot wars with the veggie sticks and then throw them out.

Starting next school year, every grain used needs to be at least 51 percent whole grain. Richland schools say they won't have to do much to meet this standard, only changing up a traditional cinnamon bun. But Nutrition Services Director Denise Christensen says the fruit and vegetable requirement is a much bigger deal.

Six orange slices or two scoops of diced fruit are examples of what a half a cup of fruit looks like. Right now, that's what's required of students to take at the lunch hour. Starting in the fall, kids will have to take this at breakfast as well, adding a cost for the district.

"We're challenged with food costs, which has come up because of the requirement that extra food needs to be on the tray," said Christensen.

Richland expects that extra portion of fruit or vegetables to cost the district another $100,000 each school year. It's $120,000 in the Kennewick schools and $150,000 in Pasco, where more kids eat breakfast at school.

"Somehow we have to make up that difference, and so it's been a challenge, so we try to minimize waste, we try to find the things that the kids will eat instead of throw away," said Christensen.

So that the added costs are meeting their purpose, and not just meeting the trash.

The districts do not know if this means an increase in breakfast and lunch prices yet. They hope to have that figured out in the coming months.

Districts do get reimbursed for kids who cannot afford the full price.