Jefferson County Schools, as well as all schools across the nation, are serving their students healthier meals this school year as a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 has given the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the power to reform school lunch and break programs. This is the first opportunity the USDA has had to make real changes in the past 30 years.
The changes in the school meal programs were officially implemented in Jefferson County at the beginning of this school year. School meals now will have more whole grain-rich foods, more fruit, more vegetables, less sodium and trans-fat, fat free and low fat milk and more water. Meals will now have a better balance between food groups, have high levels of nutrients and have an sufficient number of calories.
The new nutritional programs have not affected the price of school meals.
Child nutrition is a federal program, explained Arlene Leonard, coordinator of child nutrition for Jefferson County schools. Meeting the standards of the new act has proven that it can be challenging for the county's child nutrition department.
Leonard said, "It has made our job very difficult. It's a very fine balance between sodium levels, calorie levels and vegetables."
Some students have found the change to their meals dissatisfying. Leonard reports that there has been more plate waste, or uneaten food, from students this school year.
Leonard said, "Some of the students seem to have not accepted the changes at first, but I think they understand the changes."
Plate waste, however, does not seem to have declined since the school year began.
Another difficulty for the child nutrition department also emerged this year. Potomac Farms Dairy, the company that delivers the milk to the Jefferson County schools, has gone on strike. The company from Cumberland, Md., will be ceasing its delivery of milk to schools, according to Leonard.
Leonard said, "This week we've been very busy trying to keep milk with meals. We're doing our best to keep milk on the table."
Leonard continues to try to keep milk with school lunches and make sure that Jefferson County meets the new standards and criteria for school meals set by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
Leonard said, "It's like managing 17 restaurants."