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New school lunch offerings panned by students in one central Minn. district

A chicken salad is shown Sept. 11 from the lunch line of the cafeteria at Draper Middle School in Rotterdam, N.Y. The leaner, greener school lunches served under new federal standards are getting mixed grades from students. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

GROVE CITY -- School has been in session only a couple weeks but the new federally required school lunch requirements already have been raising eyebrows and turning up noses of some students.

At their meeting this week, the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School Board got a first-hand report on reactions to the lunch line that includes portions with limited protein and carbohydrate servings and increased offerings of fruit and vegetables

Sam Ammermann, the student representative to the ACGC school board, said kids are wondering "why we're having less food" and want to know why bread is not on the lunch line every day like it was in the past.

"They're complaining there's not that nice little box of bread," Ammermann said.

Superintendent Sherri Broderius explained how the new guidelines limit the amount of protein and starches school lunches can have in a week.

She said students are being shown what a healthful lunch plate looks like and are encouraged to make wise choices.

While the amount of hearty, stick-to-the-ribs food is less than in the past, the amount of fruit and vegetables kids can take is "huge," said Broderius, acknowledging that some kids do miss the old lunch line offerings.

When the food service director discovered there was room in the schedule to serve another carbohydrate, she put bread on the lunch line.

That was a "woo-hoo day," Broderius said.

Ammermann said his classmates are also complaining about all the whole grains and being served sweet potato fries rather than ones made from regular potatoes.

Broderius said quite a few sweet potato fries end up in the garbage, but she said it's hard to known if the menu changes are resulting in the more food overall being thrown away.

She said the school's vegetable garden -- which is planted, weeded and harvested by students and used in the school lunches -- is introducing more kids to vegetables. That could eventually make them more willing to eat school lunch produce, she said.

The school is learning to adapt to kids' needs with the new menu. For example, it may be difficult for first-graders missing their front teeth to eat whole apples. Cutting them in half or in slices could increase consumption, said Elementary Principal Kodi Goracke.

Contrary to what message kids may bring home, Broderius said students are not "forced" to eat sweet potato fries. They can choose another fruit option instead, she said.

Broderius said students can bring their own lunches, although they are discouraged from bringing soda pop in the lunch bags.

Parents of elementary students are also being reminded to consider sending healthful snacks with their kids and to consider alternatives such as fruit when sending birthday treats to school. Getting parents and grandparents to cooperate with that request has been challenging.

"It's a change," said Goracke.

Broderius said the district is considering opening up the ala carte line after school for students, especially athletes, who might need a few more calories before sports practice.

Currently the noontime ala carte line is exempt from the new menu requirements because it operates without federal funds. That means bread is still available there. But Broderius hinted that the ala carte offerings may also eventually have to change.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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