News

New rules for healthier school lunches

A week after the First Lady and the nation's agriculture secretary unveiled new federal standards for school meals, local education officials are still figuring out exactly what the new nutrition rules will mean for Mountain View schools.

While it is still unclear what it will take to comply with the new rules in terms of money and training, superintendents at both the Mountain View Whisman and Mountain View-Los Altos school districts agreed that it was good to be located in a health conscious part of a health conscious state.

In many ways, the Mountain View Whisman School District is "ahead of the curve," said Superintendent Craig Goldman. "We view federal guidelines as a floor, not a ceiling," Goldman said. "We have ongoing discussions about how to improve the quality, nutrition and appeal of the food we serve to children."

A significant component of the Michelle Obama-endorsed Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, the new U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines call for more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, a reduction of processed, salty and fatty meals, and limiting the number of calories served to children based upon age.

"California is way ahead of the federal curve," said Joe White, superintendent of business services at the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District. According to White, some of the new requirements coming down the pike have already been implemented in his district. For example, he said, MVLA already serves fruit on a daily basis, as well as fat free and reduced fat milk.

Schools will get an increase in federal funding for implementing the rules of the act -- 6 cents for every meal served.

The new regulations mark the first significant raising of public school food standards in more than 15 years.

In a press release issued by the USDA, the First Lady said the legislation was meant to ensure that kids eat as well at school as they do at home.

"As parents, we try to prepare decent meals, limit how much junk food our kids eat, and ensure they have a reasonably balanced diet," Obama said. "When we send our kids to school, we expect that they won't be eating the kind of fatty, salty, sugary foods that we try to keep them from eating at home."

Carol Chase, nutrition education administrator for the California Department of Education, said the new rules will begin going into effect on July 1. According to her, the USDA wants schools to work on getting lunches compliant first; districts won't be responsible for making sure breakfast programs are in line with the new standards until July 1, 2013.

It's a good thing that California schools have more time to revamp their breakfast programs, according to Chase. Breakfast is a discretionary program and since Congress has yet to approve any increase in breakfast reimbursements to help pay for the changes, some feared that schools would simply eliminate their morning offerings, leaving many low-income California children to go hungry.

While Mountain View may be ahead of the national curve, Chase said the new rules will surely prove challenging to many schools California. "We are concerned about the majority of our districts," she said.

With the emphasis on serving more fresh foods, new preparation and food handling protocols will need to be put in place. "When you're handling fresh fruits and vegetables, it takes additional steps to make sure the food is provided in a safe manner," she said.

Despite her concerns, Chase said that the new rules represent a "net good."

"Our kids spend the majority of their days in school," she observed, echoing Obama. "We want to make sure the meals they are being provided are meeting nutritional requirements."

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Betty Boop
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 3, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Goldman's comment that we are a head of the curve is funny given the hot lunch program at the elementary school are sugared cereal and donuts or danishes for breakfast and pizza, hot dogs, and hamburgers for lunch. Who does he think he is fooling? My kids are only allowed to get hot lunch once a week because the food they serve is all junk. I think Mr. Goldman may have on going discussions but he has yet in the 5 years my kids have been at the school to change or encourage change when it comes to what they are serving our children.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by mike
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 3, 2012 at 2:33 pm

While reduced fat is important to many, schools are often a critical source of calories for children in poor areas - a fact Michele Obama ignores. Inner city teachers have been quoted (on the food network) as saying that many children only get one meal on a regular basis - they need those school lunch calories.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by MV Mama
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 3, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Don't forget the chocolate milk! The hot lunches offered in the MVWSD elementary schools are junk. There is no reason kids need to be offered chocolate milk every single day. The fruit is often fruit cocktail, sometimes still frozen. I only let my kids eat it once a month or so but there are plenty of kids who eat it every single day.


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 3, 2012 at 2:48 pm

The district contracts food service out to the lowest bidder that takes a profit on the backs of the health of kids. What else could we expect from such a system? Hand food service back over to the district like in the 1960s and 1970s. That was great food and I sure didn't turn out obese. That would be a start.


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Posted by Margaret
a resident of Willowgate
on Feb 3, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Just FYI, I was in the cafeteria at Landels twice in the last week, and the chocolate milk is not offered anymore, and there were at least three fresh vegetables offered at lunch plus two choices of fruit cocktail.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by MV Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 3, 2012 at 4:15 pm

My mom made me a breakfast, packed me a lunch, and made a home-cooked dinner every night. That way she had full control over the nutrition of my meals. That used to be the norm.

It takes about 10-15 mins to pack a lunch for a child, there is no excuse not to do so.

If you don't think your child is worth the 15 mins it takes a day to pack a decent lunch, maybe you should rethink your priorities.

There is a lot of chutzpah in criticizing the school for feeding your child poorly when you don't care enough to take the few minutes to feed your child in the way you find acceptable.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by mv-parent
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 3, 2012 at 11:26 pm

Ahead of the curve?! I ask that the superintendent serve the school food to his family every school day -- board members too.

The food offered to Mountain View kids at school is not a menu that is promoting healthy eating habits. Nearly every family I know does pack snack and lunch -- which is much healthier than what is served in the cafeteria. However, the kids who need good nutrition the most and who may get most of their food at school via the free lunch program need healthier lunches (and breakfasts). One free breakfast lately was -- packaged cinnamon/glazed roll, package of graham crackers and a box of apple juice. Seriously! I watched the most hyperactive kid in my child's class eating this before school started. My calm child would be out of his mind (and chair) all morning if he started the day with that meal.

Why not offer some low-cost simple protein in the mornings and certainly no juice, ever. Other free breakfasts (which are also served at morning recess) include - pancake on a stick with syrup to dip in, a corn dog type thing with a sausage in the middle plus various packaged bars (which might be the healthiest thing offered but still full of sugar).

The lunch/breakfast program has the biggest impact on the low-income kids in our schools. When you look at the nutrition gap comparing students who bring their lunch vs kids who eat school food the low-income kids suffer from one more disadvantage that I feel contributes to exacerbate the achievement gap in the district.

What if the district tried feeding kids VERY healthy free breakfast that includes protein and is low-sugar so low-income kids have a better start to their day. Then, follow up with a very healthy lunch (NO "options" that allow kids to opt out of healthy food).






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Posted by Abre sus ojos
a resident of Castro City
on Feb 4, 2012 at 6:35 am

Do you want to know why they don't offer healthy food to the poor? Because they won't eat it. They've been raised on a poor diet their whole lives. They are conditioned to it.

One solution would be to have the city crack down on the ILLEGAL food carts that sell fatty pork rinds to kids when they get out of school outside of Castro. (They have no permit to operate out of the stolen shopping cats anyway.) The city could also prohibit the sale of tortillas and pan dulce (lard being the primary ingredient of both) at the local Mexican markets. And then shut down the 7-11s in literally surrounding and strategically located in all the poor neighborhoods.

Bring on the Nanny State!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by James
a resident of Whisman Station
on Feb 4, 2012 at 1:17 pm


Also, depends upon how physically active the child is, our kids go to swimming practice 6 days a week and seem to burn it all off. Look at Michael Phelps diet, 12,000 calories a day. One of my fondest memories from elementary school was going back for thirds on spaghetti one day, you had to eat the vegetables to get seconds.
My daughter complains the portions aren't big enough.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mr. Nice
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Feb 5, 2012 at 7:50 am

Keep the budget under control, Rat Meat stew is a very nutritious meal, goat swill for a fine healthy beverage.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by formerMVstudent
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 5, 2012 at 9:20 am

I think the school should pay the kids to eat their food. OMG, it's disgusting. Because it's made on a volume basis, they lack the ability or desire to make it quality food. "The kids will eat it if they're hungry" mentality seems to be in the school cafeteria.

I get up 10 minutes earlier to make my child's lunch so he doesn't have to GAG on the school lunch, and to ensure he's getting a balanced lunch. I make sure he gets up early enough to eat and wake up and not rush off to school half asleep.

Parents are equally responsible to provide a balanced lunch as well as to ensure they get their homework done and help them if they need it!

No matter what changes occur in the school lunches, I won't be letting my son eat there. I just don't think the quality is ever going to be there. Hey, Google gives their employees awesome FREE lunches, a lot better and healthier meals. Sad, parents getting better lunches than their kids.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by MV Mama
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 5, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Chocolate milk was still at our school on Friday, as it is every day. The selection of vegetables is usually baby carrots or celery, which is often still frozen.

Like I said before, it is rare that my kids eat it. But there are plenty of students who east it day in and day out. They are often the kids who carry extra weight.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 6, 2012 at 5:01 pm

Until we can provide low-cost, fully nutritious meals that a culturally diverse community can widely agree on, folks will continue to take potshots at the district. Food has to be transported after preparation in some cases. If kids don't eat at school because they don't like the food, their education will certainly suffer after the meal they don't eat. Getting up earlier to prepare what you consider to be a healthier breakfast is great, unless the family can't afford healthier food in the house in the first place. Jackie Spier recently tried a food stamp diet for a week -- $4.76 per person per day. See how far you get with fresh fruits and veggies on that budget. If you can afford school lunch at full price and don't buy it, you actually make it harder for the district to do better. Both our kids either ate the lunch or packed their own through K-8 and are fine and healthy at 25 and 22. Everybody take a deep breath!!!!!!!!!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by James
a resident of Whisman Station
on Feb 7, 2012 at 11:41 am


Just a thought, our kids are nuts for fruit smoothies lately so much so that I had to go buy a blender so they don't break the bank buying them from fast food chains all the time. I wonder how much it would cost to substitute smoothies for the chocolate milk. You can use frozen fruit, low-fat milk or yogurt, and even slip some broccoli and carrots in.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by RH
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 7, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Steve,

Jackie Speier? Seriously?

She used her food stamp monies to buy Kraft Dinner and canned tuna (which she combined to make tuna casserole - presumably after buying butter and milk required to complete the concoction).

If Kraft Dinner and Chicken of the Sea were the most cost effective way to feed oneself, the landscape of the third world would be littered with empty boxes and cans of the stuff.

People need to educate themselves about nutrition and food.

Clearly, our members of congress have shown themselves to be uninformed on the subject. And the think that the purveyors of the school lunch and going to provide any guidance......


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Feb 8, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Why not have a central kitchen for the K-12 and for the surround districts. This way they can plan, purchase, prepare and transport to be heated up, cooked or served at the smaller kitchens. Jr High and High Schools the food can be served in a Cafe Style. Healthy Pizza, we can figure out a way to make food good that the kids are willing to eat.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by ABC
a resident of North Whisman
on Apr 21, 2013 at 8:39 pm

The food at Huff Elementary sucks!! Just because it's $3.25 a meal doesn't mean it has to be crappy. And don't say just because they're kids, they probably don't eat anyways is just downright ignorant. Kids have stomachs and appetites and should deserve a good meal just like anyone else. The fact of the matter is that if the school system stopped serving the kids crap, then no one would have anything to complain about. When was the last time the local school representatives actually inspected the slop that gets delivered from the back of the truck every lunch hour?


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