School lunches are not what they used to be


School lunches aren’t what they used to be. A lot of regulations have changed in the last decade to make school lunches healthier for the students who consume them. With October 9-13 as National School Lunch Week its people like (l-r) Connie Benjegertes, Jennifer “Toots” Myers, and Carol Stanbrough, NFV food service director, and the other cooks in the North Fayette and Valley school districts, who make the hot meals for the students everyday.  Chris DeBack photo


School lunches are not what they used to be . . .



By Chris Deback






The school lunches students eat today aren’t the same as what was served to their parents 30 years ago. 

October 9-13 is National School Lunch Week, so Fayette County Newspapers sat down with Carol Stanbrough, North Fayette Valley Food Service director, to talk about the changes that have occurred. 

Stanbrough has been a cook at North Fayette and now North Fayette Valley for 18 years, and has held her current position for the last nine. 

She noted that many of the changes to school lunches came from former First Lady Michelle Obama through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that was signed into law on Dec. 13, 2010. It went into effect during the 2012-2013 school year. 

The act appropriated $4.5 billion in new funding for the following programs through Sept. 15. 2015: the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), the Summer Food Service Program, the Afterschool Meal Program and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed). 

According to the School Nutrition Association website, some of the new nutrition standards put on school lunches through the law were that all grains needed to be at least 51 percent whole grain;l schools must offer fruits and vegetables with every lunch and increase the portion size; the breakfast and lunch program meals must meet a specific calorie count based on grade; schools have until July 1, 2022, to reduce sodium in meals to a certain amount based on grade level.

Also, school lunches can’t contain added trans-fat and no more than 10 percent of a meal's calories can come from saturated fats; every school meal must offer at least one cup of fat-free or 1 percent milk; and school cafeterias must provide free drinking water during breakfast and lunch. 

“We used to serve a dessert every single day, when I started in my current position,” Stanbrough recalled. “Back then, if the students wanted to take vegetables they could. If they didn’t, they didn’t. Every day they now have to have a combination of fruits and vegetables in order for it to be an allowable lunch that we can get reimbursed for. The main entree portions have gone down. Take a Maid Rite for example, now we only give two ounces of meat on a sandwiches.”

In March, CNN reported that the School Nutrition Association recommended that nutrition standards be rolled back to the Trump Administration. It is unclear whether or not those recommendations will be headed by President Trump. 

While the regulations haven’t changed what North Fayette Valley serves, it has reduced how much of it is served, and had them searching for more nutritional versions of the product. 

“We can still pretty much serve everything we used to serve, we are just giving smaller portions,” Stanbrough said. “If you talk to the kids, they would tell you they don’t think they get enough. But, now with the fruit and vegetable bar we don’t hear it near as much because they can fill up their trays with as much as they want. 

“When figuring out the calorie count for the meal, I will figure in a ½ cup of fruits and ¾ cup of vegetables,” she added. “What the students take from the fruit and vegetable bar isn’t included in the calorie count, so they can get more food that way. Also, they can buy a second lunch if they want. It is that each meal needs to fit within specific standards regardless of how many meals the children are going to get.”

Stanbrough noted that pizza, chicken nuggets, tacos, taco salads, and hamburgers are some of the students favorite menu items. Every three years the state does an audit for North Fayette’s and Valley’s school lunch program. 

She also added that a majority of the food, for what is the old North Fayette school district, is cooked at the high school. She then sends the food to West Union Elementary and Fayette Elementary, which is then brought back up to temperature before being served. 

This can make meal planning a little tricky, because kindergarten through fifth grade has different nutritional standards than middle school and high schoolers. This also creates a small road block for what is the old Valley school district, because Carol Junge, Valley food service director, is planning meals for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. 

While the lunches have changed, the students were quick to point out that they do in deed like what they are served. 

“I like the school lunches here,” said Abigail Boehm, a freshman at NFVHS. “We get more than what we did in middle school, and the ability to fill up on fruits and vegetables is nice.” 

Stanbrough noted that she will hang some signs around the cafeteria to promote National School Lunch Week at the school. 



Rate this article: 
No votes yet
Comment Here