Healthy changes in the school cafeterias

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By Special to The Sun


Washington County school cafeterias are meeting tough new federal nutrition standards for school meals by staying in compliance with the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act that was passed by Congress. 

This ensures that meals are healthy and well-balanced and provide students all the nutrition they need to succeed at school.
 School meals offer students milk, fruit and vegetables, proteins and grains, and they must meet strict limits on saturated fat and portion size.  In school year 12-13, school lunches must meet additional standards requiring:
- Age-appropriate calorie limits
- Larger servings of vegetables and fruits (students must take at least one serving of produce)
- A wider variety of vegetables, including dark green and red/orange vegetables and legumes
- Fat-free or one-percent milk (flavored milk must be fat-free)
- More whole grains
- And less sodium
The Healthy Hunger Free Act requires school nutrition programs to begin moving toward charging paid-meal students a price that is equal to the difference between free-meal reimbursement and paid- meal reimbursement.  The federal mandated price increase is required of all school districts by using a paid equity tool formula.  Starting last school year this tool will be provided to all directors yearly to calculate the price for paid students to determine if an increase must be issued.  Currently, on average Washington County falls 44 cents short, meaning they are receiving 44 cents more per free meal than they are charging.  With this information, paid parents can expect an increase yearly until this difference is reached.  The average plate cost for lunch is $1.10 for food alone; this is excluding labor.   
Students are encouraged to take as many fruits or vegetables as they would like without being charged for extras.   Students will be charged for frozen potato products. (Ex. Fries, tater tots, hash browns) Students must take three components at lunch and three components at breakfast, regardless of free/reduced/paid meal status.  If less is taken, the student’s account will be charged for the items a la carte.
The website www.myschoolbucks.com is available for parents to create an account free of charge to monitor their child’s account.  If a payment is made online, a $2 charge by the credit card company is issued per transaction.  Parents may continue to send money with their children to the school cafeteria.
If you have any questions or would like to view the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, please contact Regina Hood, Food Service Director by calling the Washington County Board of Education, 859-336-5470 or by email regina.hood@washington.kyschools.us.