Andy Metler and Jonah Hirschfeld grab a couple of fruit cups at the end of the Derby High School lunch line to meet the new federal nutrition standards.
As part of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, new federal nutrition standards by the United State Department of Agriculture have been established to ensure students receive healthy, well-balanced meals for school lunches.
To comply with the USDA’s National School Lunch Program Agreement, all lunch menus in Derby Public Schools now offer fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and milk. Students are required to choose a minimum of three of the five components. One of those components must be at least one-half cup of fruit or vegetables.
Those new guidelines will not be cheap, and the requirements will challenge the school district’s food service department in several ways, said Tom Snodgrass, director of operations for Derby Public Schools.
“It’s going to be a challenge in the area of expense, because fresh fruits and vegetables are more expensive than other choices,” he said. “They don’t come cut up, sliced up and washed and diced and ready to serve. You have to do that, so our labor costs will no doubt be more.”
Even though food prices and labor costs for the district will likely rise, student meal prices did not this school year.
Under the current meal plan, elementary lunch prices are $1.90 per student. Derby Middle School is $2.05 and Derby High School is $2.15.
The school board approved a 10-cent meal increase for the previous academic year. Snodgrass expects that to jump again next year.
“It’s safe to say we will be back next year asking for an increase, but this year we are good,” Snodgrass said at a school board meeting in late April.
The new guidelines are required of all school districts participating in the National School Lunch Program Agreement, and are a significant overhaul from previous guidelines set in place by the USDA, Snodgrass said.
“That really will be the only option on the table, so to speak,” he said. “These standards are not optional.”
The district also expects some resistance from students who might not practice healthy eating habits, Snodgrass said.
“As parents we know what a challenge it is to get our kids to eat a well-balanced meal,” he said.
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