The new year has brought with it a makeover for school lunches.
New federal guidelines went into affect in July. Jim Grosch, Warren County School District director of business services, said changes are designed to encourage more healthy eating habits and promote a balanced diet.
Among the new items on the menu are dark, leafy, green vegetables; bright orange vegetables; beans; assorted whole grain products and 100 percent fruit juice with no sugar added. With its new standards, Grosch said the U.S. Department of Agriculture focuses on obtaining calories and other key nutrients from fruits, vegetables, protein foods, grains and milk with proper serving sizes for a student's age and activity level.
Times Observer photo by Colin Kyler
Kalli Tomassoni, near left, and Savannah Keener, near right, enjoy a meal at Warren Area Elementary Center. Students this year will have healthier food choices at school.
Savannah Keener, a sixth grader at Warren Area Elementary Center, said food before the changes was greasy. After lifting food like pizza up, she could see where the grease formed on the tray.
Kalli Tomassoni, also a WAEC sixth grade student, said the food doesn't taste the same as it did. In the cookies, she noticed they use different chocolate.
Fewer options are available, Keener said, and pretzels are gone. However, there are more fruit cups.
"Not as many kids will be heavier," Keener said. "They'll also be more focused."
Ann Ryan, WAEC assistant principal, said some of the new foods are surprisingly popular. On Wednesday, pinto beans were a big hit.
Clara McKotch, WAEC cafeteria manager, said she believes they're selling fewer lunches per student when considering the additional enrollment during Beaty renovations. Students also tend to pack lunches at the beginning of any year and she thinks they'll buy more after they see the new school lunches.
"I like some of the healthier options," McKotch said. "I wish we could offer more of them."
Menus are listed at www.wcsdpa.org under calendars and breakfast/lunch menus. There is also information on the USDA guidelines on the district website along with free and reduced lunch forms and contact information.