Originally published Sept. 3, 2012.
Students are seeing healthier and more nutritious foods in the cafeteria as they return to school this year.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which establishes new nutrition standards for school meals, is being implemented locally by Ken Akins, director of food service for Huntington County Community School Corporation.
The standards specifically mandate that students be offered both fruits and vegetables every day of the week; offerings of whole grain-rich foods and low-fat milk or fat-free milk be substantially increased; calories be limited based on the age of children being served to ensure proper portion size; and the amounts of saturated fat, trans fats and sodium be reduced.
Changes Akins has made to school lunch menus reflect these new standards.
"The details of how we put vegetables into the rotation of the menus, we've had to change that," says Akins.
"We're also adding more whole wheat. We had to get to 51 percent whole wheat products that we serve.
"We're working on lowering the sodium. Much of the whole wheat products and the sodium, the industry is working on right now."
Akins says the increased presence of whole grains and the altered vegetable rotation should be the biggest changes students note.
While this school year was the first in which the standards had to take effect, Akins says that steps were taken to adopt them before now so that the transition would be smoother.
"We went to fat-free milk - I think this is our second year - and then we have been getting whole grain breads for a while," he says.
Of the new school lunches, Lincoln Elementary third grader Frank Roth says, "They're mostly the same."
However, efforts to supply their lunch trays with healthier foods have not gone totally unnoticed by Roth and his classmates.
"The lunch lady gave him some grapes when he got the PB and J and that might be new with PB and J," says Roth of a classmate's lunch.
Overall, Akins is satisfied with the new standards and how they have been implemented.
"I think it'll be a good thing for kids. I really do," he says. "It'll be healthier and the whole industry is following along."
Complete caption: Lincoln Elementary School third-graders (from left) Frank Roth, Kaelan Lease and Landon Emerick enjoy lunch on Thursday, Aug. 30. School meals in the Huntington County Community School Corporation and nationwide fell subject to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 this school year, which establishes new nutrition standards for school meals.