In recent years, Duluth Public Schools nutrition staff have been striving to provide their students with healthy and appealing meals. Their goal has been to take into consideration the requests of the students and families, focusing on types of foods and maintaining a constant level based on budgeted funds for the lunch program.
“Minor changes have been taking place over the years and have been very beneficial in our school lunch menu program,” said Jake Hintsala, assistant principal at Lincoln Park Middle School.
Various differences in the school lunch requirements and in the overall appearance of healthy eating habits will be seen from the students and also the parents in the Duluth area. The nutrition staff and principals are working together to improve this system in a timely manner while seeking to make everyone happy.
“It’s been hard work trying to get everything straightened out, but it’s all been worth it because we all know it’s paying off in the long run,” said Bonnie Wolden, principal at Lester Park Elementary School.
The focus is to boost nutrition and keep calories in balance for students from kindergarten through high school, in an effort to battle the currently rising numbers in childhood obesity and struggling families providing enough food.
The new federal requirements for the National School Lunch Program was released in September 2012. According to this report, the program gives precise guidelines for each food group and how it is to be improved. Most of the requirements have been met, besides a few that will go into effect in 2014.
“Meeting goals is a huge accomplishment for us as a staff body, and also having new goals to reach like the few for 2014, gives us motivation to keep this program strong,” Wolden said.
The new federal K-12 requirements offer students 1 cup of their daily fruit and vegetable choices, along with fat-free or 1% low fat milk and whole grain breads and pastas.
Not only are the daily lunch menus being constantly updated with new and improved healthy options, they are also making sure the serving sizes are up to the standards for the students.
With all this change, children benefit from a healthy lifestyle, while prices for student lunch stay reasonable.
“It’s very important to us to not only make the students happy, but the families and parents as well," said Cheryl Lien, Duluth East High School’s assistant principal. "We try our best to accommodate everyone’s voices on this subject."
Some items have also been removed from school lunch menus, resulting in no rise of cost for every day school lunches. Free breakfast is also provided in all Duluth public schools, encouraging students to eat breakfast every day.
“There’s always room for improvement," Lien said. "We are just taking it one step at a time."