H-CENTRAL COAST

Jan 20, 2011 3:38 PM by Carina Corral

School districts: federal guidelines won't greatly change menu

Local school districts have said the new program to make school meals healthier won't affect their menus, too much.

The federal guidelines proposed last week by the Department of Agriculture call for more fruits, vegetables and whole grains; milk to be fat-free or low-fat; and meals with reduced sodium and saturated fat.

At Oceano Elementary students already get some nutritious meals: bananas, eggs, granola were just some of the items offered for breakfast Wednesday morning.

"I had yogurt with blueberries and an apple juice," said Fourth Grader Gaby Barrera.

Low-fat milk, juice or water are the only beverage option.

For lunch, the Lucia Mar School District prides itself on the salad bar offered at all schools that includes a variety of veggies and fruit.

And for the main course: "On Fridays we have pizza and sometimes we have enchiladas and on Wednesdays we have chicken nuggets," said Sixth Grader Paola Garcia.

At lunch, things like pizza and chicken nuggets will continue to be served because that is what kids like to eat, but it is the way they are made that will change under the new guidelines.

"We're always looking at alternatives to make healthier meals as far as pizza, like I said, the whole wheat pizza with the lower fat cheese. We're looking into the turkey pepperoni," said the Lucia Mar District's Food Services Director Cindy Naber.

Also as part of the new guidelines, the U.S.D.A. has vowed to improve the nutritional quality of foods it sends to schools across the nation, including here at home.

"Their food will also have lower sodium that we'll be able to use in our breakfast and lunch program," said Naber.

Overall, schools on the Central Coast said they are ahead of the pack when it comes to healthy cafeteria cuisine, but the proposed guidelines have food services doing their homework to be even better.

The U.S.D.A. expected to publish final regulations in January 2012. They would become the guidelines for the 2012-13 school year.

Free potable water at all schools is a requirement that goes into effect July 1 of this year.

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