Federal rules make Oklahoma schools clean up their plates
Food served in Oklahoma City Public Schools will be different this year, officials say. Federal regulations are causing districts to change the amount and type of foods served.
Children returning to school this fall may notice a change in what's on their lunch trays.
New federal regulations are kicking in for school districts across the country, and in Oklahoma's largest school district, lunches already look different.
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More produce, more whole grain, less fat and other changes are under way, said Al Pilaski, director of operations for child nutrition services for Oklahoma City Public Schools.
Pilaski said the new rules are the most dramatic he's seen in the past 15 years.
“Obesity is not going to be solved at school lunch,” Pilaski said. “But school lunches are a component.”
At Wilson Elementary School last week, a bubbly group of fifth-graders chowed down on broccoli, apples, oranges and a burger on a whole-wheat bun.
A boy with a pointy Mohawk gobbled baked sweet potato fries with both hands.
This year, cafeteria workers will be looking even more closely at what is left on students' trays, Pilaski said.
It's a balance of money, nutrition and taste.
“We serve a number of masters,” he said. “The No. 1 master is the kids.”
The cost of each overhauled lunch is projected to increase by about 2½ cents this year and 10 cents altogether over the next five years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“It's really too early this year to see what kind of an impact it will have on the budget,” Pilaski said. “The cost has gone up so much, but the product has gone up significantly.”
The changes affect nearly every element of school lunch:
• Breads and meats are trimmed, and fruits and vegetables both must be offered every day.
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