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New round of nutrition guidelines coming for schools

WILLMAR — New federal regulations will bring more changes to school nutrition programs next year, including a new program that could do away with some of students’ favorite snacks.

Food and Nutrition Director Annette Derouin provided an update on the changing regulations for the Willmar School Board Monday evening.

Nutrition guidelines schools are required to follow have been changed substantially in recent years, putting new requirements and calorie restrictions in place for school lunches. In the next year, new guidelines will go into effect for breakfasts and snacks.

Derouin also supervises school meal programs in the Montevideo, New London-Spicer and MACCRAY school districts and for Community Christian School in Willmar. All of those programs will see the same changes.

While she knows what some of the new guidelines are, Derouin said, she is waiting for more information from the state on how the new rules will be implemented. Schools are also waiting to see what foods their suppliers develop to fit within the new guidelines.

One change will require that breakfast and lunch food choices must be rich in whole grains, she said. “Anything that had any white flour is on its way out, and I don’t foresee it coming back.”

The schools she supervises already serve whole grain breads and other foods, she said, so it should not be difficult to meet the new standard.

Schools will also be required to serve an additional half cup of fruit at breakfast. Willmar provides free breakfast for all students through grade 8 and for all students eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

Breakfasts already contain one-half cup of fruit, so the new regulation will double that.

A new initiative called Smart Snacks in School will be most noticeable to students and possibly to the program’s bottom line, she said.

“It’s going to mean substantial changes,” she said. “I don’t know yet what items will stay or go.”

All foods sold from before school to one-half hour after school will have to follow the new standards.

Snacks must meet one of these four standards:

* Be rich in whole grain.

* Have a fruit, vegetable, dairy or protein product as the first ingredient.

* Be a combination food with at least one-quarter cup of fruit or vegetables.

* Contain 10 percent of the daily value of calcium, potassium, vitamin D or dietary fiber.

Snacks must contain fewer than 200 calories and 230 milligrams of sodium, have no trans fats and have less than one-third of their calories from fat. The calorie count must include condiments or other common additions, like cream cheese, salad dressing or butter.

School groups selling food as a fundraiser must follow the guidelines if sales take place during the school day, Derouin said. It will not affect concessions at athletic events or other events that take place more than a half hour after the end of the school day.

Derouin said it is a concern, because a la carte and concession sales in cafeterias help keep the nutrition program in the black. In Willmar, those sales raised nearly $117,000 through February.

Derouin told board members that “there’s no end in sight” for changes in school nutrition guidelines. Further restrictions in sodium content will be coming in the future, according to information she provided about the Smart Snacks program.

Derouin provided statistics about the program’s service through February of the current school year.

The Willmar program served 275,431 breakfasts and 363,715 lunches through February. It has provided 14,528 after-school snacks and sent 1,488 meals along with athletes going to away games.

Poor winter weather reduced the number of athlete meals, she said, and that is continuing with a rainy spring.

Derouin reported that the Cardinal Care Angel Fund, which pays for school meals when students’ lunch accounts are empty. Since the district expanded use of the fund earlier this year, the deficit in the fund has increased from $150 to about $300.

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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