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New federal law will change school lunches for next school year

WILLMAR -- A new federal law will require adjustments in school lunch programs locally, and Willmar School Board members fear it could lead to more food waste.

Board members discussed the new law at a workshop meeting Monday when they received an update on the district's Wellness Policy.

The district has achieved most of the goals in the Wellness Policy and is working on the others, said Dietitian Michelle Synhorst.

Nutrition Director Annette Derouin told the board about the new law, called the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. She also said an audit of the food service indicated that there will be no need for a price increase for the next school year.

The new law will require schools to serve more fruits and vegetables and place stricter limits on breads, grains, meats and cheeses.

Derouin said they do not have the Minnesota Department of Education's interpretation of the new law yet, but students are likely to notice the changes in the next school year. The law goes into effect on July 1.

The law will require students to take a broader variety of food groups in a subsidized school lunch, she said.

Schools will be required to serve ¾ to 1 cup of vegetables and ½ to 1 cup fruit each day. "If they don't have it on their tray, we can't count it as a complete meal," Derouin said. She has ordered more commodities to fulfill the greater need, and she plans to offer a combination of canned and fresh foods.

Meat and meat alternatives will be limited to 10 ounces to 12 ounces a week, depending on a child's age. Servings of bread and grains will be limited to 9 to 12 ounces a week, depending on the age.

"We may not have sliced bread every day," she said, because that might lead students to eat more carbohydrates than the guidelines allow.

Board members said they were concerned that the new rules could lead to more food waste, because students may not want or be able to eat more than a cup of fruits and vegetables every day.

Every effort will be made to help students understand why they should eat the foods and to provide attractive choices for them, Derouin said.

Through a cooperative agreement, Derouin oversees nutrition programs for the New London-Spicer and Montevideo school districts, too. Community Christian School contracts with Willmar for meal service.

She and Synhorst will be reworking menus and working with staff members in all the districts to follow the new guidelines, Derouin said.

Cheryl Nash, director of curriculum and instruction, gave the board an update on curriculum review efforts in the district.

Nash said she has organized gatherings of elementary teachers from Roosevelt and Kennedy schools to review the Everyday Math curriculum. The curriculum discussion has also included a study of how K-12 curriculum relates to state standards.

Nash's goal is to increase the coordination of instruction in both of the district's elementary schools. The teachers are also able to share techniques and materials they have found to be useful in their classrooms, she said.

Teachers in social studies, science and language arts will be doing similar reviews, but they are at different steps in the process, she said.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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