Calcasieu Parish Director of Food Services Patricia Hosemann shows a diagram of the new school lunch standards. (Ashley Withers / American Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 06, 2012 11:36 AM
School lunches in Calcasieu Parish are in for an upgrade next school year in order to meet new U.S. Department of Agriculture standards.
The new standards will require significant portions of fruit and vegetables and an increase in whole grains for every school lunch.
“Our meals are going to be a lot healthier next year,” said Patricia Hosemann, the director of food services for Calcasieu Parish. “We will meet all of the guidelines of the USDA.”
The USDA will now require at least a half cup of fruit per day for students in grades K-8 and a whole cup for high school students. Only on two days can the fruit be prepackaged or canned; the other three days it must be fresh fruit. The district will not be allowed to repeat the same fruit during the week.
“We are going to try to follow the seasonal fruits and vegetables, hopefully working up to a farm-to-school program where we could buy locally,” Hosemann said. “I would really like to do that so the food is fresher and it stays longer.”
The new regulations also require that K-8 students have three-fourths cup of vegetables each meal and a whole cup for high school students.
The USDA listed which vegetables school lunches must have servings of throughout the week: dark green vegetables, red/orange vegetables, beans and peas, starchy vegetables, and an “other” category that includes vegetables like asparagus, beets, cauliflower and zucchini.
“Hopefully the kids will find at least one they like and eat lots of it,” Hosemann said.
She said half of each student’s plate should consist of fruits and vegetables.
The USDA also says that at least half the grains offered for a school lunch must be whole-grain rich. Hosemann said all bread offered next school year will be whole wheat.
Nutrition education for students is one of the primary objectives of the healthier school lunch initiative.
“These students that are in elementary now are going to grow up. They are going to make a difference, make a change,” Hosemann said. “Hopefully they will take what they learn from their school lunch and bring it home to their parents.”
On average, 22,000 school lunches are served every day in Calcasieu Parish public schools, and Hosemann said that the changes to a healthier school lunch menu will be costly on the front end. But she said the cost will not be raised for students.
K-8 students will still pay $1.35 per meal, and high school students will continue to pay $1.50 per meal.
The Calcasieu Parish School Board will take action on bids for food suppliers for the 2012-2013 school year at its meeting today at 4:45 p.m.
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