Schools struggle to meet nutrition guideline within budget - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Schools struggle to meet nutrition guideline within budget

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -

Changes made to school nutrition guidelines over the past three years have put a bad taste in the mouths of many people.

"When it first started, it was horrible. We had to pull all of the cookies. We had to pull all of the ice creams. All of the things they really liked and give them salad," said Natalie Winkle, Boardman Schools Food Service Director.

Food service directors have had to overhaul recipes and revamp menus to meet the government's healthier guidelines.

The nutrition standards were first rolled out in 2012. And just about every year since then, schools have had to make adjustments all while working within a specific budget.

"Trying to stay on budget with the fresh fruits are tough, and especially in our area, we have to stay with seasonal things," said Trish Wilson, Girard Schools Food Service Director.

Add to that, the students, who don't like what's being served.

"They are use to eating McDonald's and pizza and things outside of the school. So, when they come to school, their tastes are still inclined to the high fat, high salt diet," said Winkle.

Meals served during both breakfast and lunch have to meet specific calorie, sodium and fat guidelines. Fruits and vegetables, whole grain-rich products and low-fat dairy must also be served daily in specific amounts.

For example, at lunch, meals cannot exceed more than 700 calories for kids in sixth through eighth grades. There also cannot be more than 1360 mg of sodium in the offered meal.

To put that into perspective, one cup of low fat milk has about 100 calories and 105 mg of sodium.

"There aren't a lot of products available that fit the guidelines," said Wilson.

Food service directors have also have to get creative.

By allowing students to buy meals a la carte, like fresh salads or whole grain pizza, schools are able to keep up lunch participation numbers and cut down on waste.

They also give students options, as opposed to just filling up trays and serving them.

"I like how if you don't like what they are having that day, they give you a choice or an alternate," said Elijah Duponty, a Girard High School student.

Student Alexandra O'Neil added, "At first it was kind of a shock, you know, it was different, but, you know, as you go on, you know, you get use to it."

While schools work to find a balance between the regulations and what students want eat, The School Nutrition Association is asking Congress to consider changes to the Child Nutrition Reauthorization of 2015 such as increasing meal reimbursements by 35 cents to help cover the costs of healthier foods.

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