Got lunch? Soda, candy not on menu

School serves up healthy lunch options
By: Megan Wood The Press Tribune
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Do you know what your child eats at school? If you guessed greasy pizza, mystery meat hamburgers and few leafy greens, you might be surprised. Today’s school lunches are regulated by the National School Lunch program that dictates the number of calories and percentage of fat that make their way onto kids’ lunch trays. In recent years, national policies focused on childhood obesity and nutrition have caused sugary drinks and high-calorie snacks to be banned from school lunchrooms. “School lunches are regulated by the National School Lunch program that has specific guidelines that all of our lunches adhere to,” said Rene Yamashiro, director of food services for the Roseville City School District. “The regulations that we adhere to are actually more stringent than most American diets.” At the elementary school level, lunches must provide around 665 calories between a main entrée, choice of two sides and a drink. Fat calories must make up less than 30 percent and no more than 10 percent of the total calories can come from saturated fats. Sugary drinks, candy and other high calorie snack foods have been yanked from vending machines on K-12 school campuses nationwide and replaced with water, 12-ounce electrolyte replacement drinks, like Gatorade and healthy snack choices like SunChips or 100 percent fruit snacks said Director of Child Nutrition for the Roseville Joint Union High School District Jay Brown. These regulations mean that schools can no longer sell items like cookies, chips or French fries a la Carte. Instead, even “snack bar” foods are served as a meal with sides and a beverage and adhere to the national school lunch program’s policies. Juan Delgado, a sixth-grader at Cooley Middle School recently hit the snack bar line for his lunch of a spicy chicken sandwich, mozzarella sticks, fruit slushy and bottle of water. “I don’t know if it’s all that healthy, I think some (lunch items) are better than others but I don’t want to eat salad everyday,” Delgado said. Although it doesn’t sound like the portrait of good eating, Yamashiro said it’s healthier than you’d think. “All of our buns are whole wheat, the mozzarella sticks are made with lowfat cheese and adhere to the fat and saturated fat guidelines,” Yamashiro said. “The slushies are 100 percent fruit juice and the kids have the choice of lowfat milk or water.” Delgado said if there was one thing he would change about the school lunches it would be to have more variety in drink options. “It would be nice to be able to have a soda or juice,” Delgado said. “Water can get boring sometimes.” Although Yamashiro said chicken nuggets and pizza top the charts for lunch popularity, the menu doesn’t stop there. New additions to the menu at both the Roseville City and Roseville High School districts include Mandarin orange chicken or chicken teriyaki served over brown rice, beef tamales wrapped in corn husks and daily salad bars. “I think school lunch is healthier than most sack lunches,” Brown said citing processed and high calorie lunchmeats, like bologna, sodas and processed snacks that find their way into brown bag lunches. “(With school lunches) kids are eating right without limiting their options,” Brown said. For some parents though, sack lunches are still believed to be the most reliable way of monitoring what their children eat. Or don’t eat, as is the case with Cooley Middle School sixth-graders Angelica Villano and Kiana Fong who say they throw away their sack lunches everyday and would rather go hungry than eat their sack lunches or what the school serves. “The school lunch is unhealthy and gross,” Villano said. “And my sack lunch is boring.” Emma Edwards, a sixth-grader at Cooley Middle School says she likes that her mother packs her lunch because she knows that it’s healthy, something she can’t be positive of if she ate what her school serves. “It looks unhealthy and I don’t like what they serve,” Edwards said. “There’s a salad bar but nobody eats it.” Maddie Young, a fifth-grader at Diamond Creek Elementary School said she’s often still hungry after eating school lunch. “My mom packs my lunch and I’m not so hungry anymore,” Young said. But the choices in the school cafeteria sometimes have Young wishing for diversity from the same peanut butter and jelly sandwich everyday. “Sometimes it would be nice to be able to eat what my friends eat,” Young said.