Nutrition directors in Spokane Public Schools, Mead and Coeur d’Alene school districts have worked hard in recent years to make breakfast and lunch options better for students. Pizza, for example, is one of the most popular choices for elementary school lunches; to make it healthier nutritionists use whole wheat or whole-grain crust and low-fat mozzarella.
That’s why school nutritionists here feel like they’re prepared for new National School Lunch Program guidelines that go into effect early next year. The program will closely follow new federal nutrition guidelines, which suggest people eat more fruits and vegetables, eat 50 percent more whole grains and switch to fat-free or 1 percent milk.
“When I look at the (federal) MyPlate, it’s patterned after what we are doing,” said Ed Ducar, Coeur d’Alene School District nutrition services director.
According to the new federal nutrition guidelines, elementary school-age children should have three servings daily of a half cup of fruit; three-quarters cup of vegetables; 2 ounces of protein; 2 ounces of grains, of which 50 percent should be whole grains; and 8 ounces of dairy.
The suggested fruit, dairy and protein servings were met in all three school districts, based on one week of menu items for elementary schools. Spokane Public Schools was 20 percent shy on the whole grains, and all three districts fell short on vegetable servings.
“That’s where what’s offered becomes important,” said Doug Wordell, Spokane Public Schools nutrition services director. Fresh fruits and vegetables are offered in the district’s elementary school lunchrooms, so students have the opportunity to choose to eat more than is on their lunch tray.
Three elementary schools in the Coeur d’Alene School District – Borah, Fernan and Winton – and 10 schools in Spokane Public Schools also receive a federal grant that pays for schools to offer fresh fruits and vegetables in class.
Portions are next, Ducar said.
“Now the thought is, start shrinking the plate size.”