East Texas school districts prepare for new lunch guidelines

East Texas school districts prepare for new lunch guidelines
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff

EAST TEXAS (KTRE) - Children nutrition directors across the state are bracing for the new changes in school lunches guidelines.

Julie Wood is the child nutrition director at Hudson ISD. She said with the current rules put in place by the Healthy Hunger-Free Act from seven years ago caused her team to be more creative on how to serve the hot meals.

"I think the first thing is kids eat with their eyes. It's got to look good. It's got to taste good," Wood said.

However, the stringent rules often didn't make the food modifications very appetizing.

Since 2010, the Healthy Hunger-Free Act championed by former First Lady Michelle Obama, has been implemented across the nation.

Now, some of those strict regulations will see more flexibility under the current U.S. Department Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

"As much as these hard working professionals do, we want to give them the flexibility to make them not only nutritious, but palatable where the kids want to come and enjoy a great school meal," Perdue said.

With new flexibility from the USDA, schools districts will have more control on how to execute exemption requests of whole grain food, suspend the sodium-reduction requirements and allow 1-percent fat milk.

Huntington Child Nutrition Director Amanda Calk was initially hesitant when the announcement was made, thinking more about the spike in costs but after learning more from the Texas Agriculture Secretary, she has welcomed the idea.

"So many kids that rely on us every day for the meals. They go home and there may not be a full meal for them until they get back at to school the next day," Calk said.

The new changes, both directors said, will give them decision-making power on how to prepare meals with full whole grain and or opt out by catering to their audience, the students.

According to USDA numbers, school meal requirements cost school districts and states an additional $1.22 billion dollars in Fiscal Year 2015.

The new rules will go into effect during the 2017-2018 school year.

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