Cutting a pizza isn’t simple when you’re worrying about counting calories.
Due to new federal regulations, Kodiak Island Borough School District schools have had to relearn everything from how to address second servings to how to cut a pizza.
Different grades get different-sized slices to stay within their separate calorie limits. Kodiak’s rural schools had even more trouble with the pizza slices since they house students from kindergarten through 12th grade.
“We had a meeting and had to train our cooks how to cut the pizzas,” said Sandy Daws, the district’s purchasing supervisor. “It’s the little challenges.”
New menus are on students’ plates this year in response to the federal Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which requires schools to take steps to reduce childhood obesity and teach kids to make healthy choices.
The new regulatory requirements under the act require schools that rely on federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make changes to school meals starting this year.
“Cookies are having to come off the tray now because you have to get X amount of calories for an age group within that meal, and you can’t go over,” Daws said.
In addition to the calorie limits, schools are required to reduce sodium and saturated fat, offer only fat-free and low-fat milk, offer weekly vegetables, grains and meats, and provide fruit daily.
Daws said the Kodiak Island Borough School District has been working on the changes since last year but has run into some challenges with the new portion sizes.
Kindergartners through fifth-graders receive the same food serving sizes under the new age group divisions. This is a challenge for the schools because the younger kids now have larger portions and often don’t know what to do with all the food.
“We’re really working through that right now because the kindergartners will just sit and stare at food because it’s overwhelming for them,” Daws said. “Sometimes they see a hamburger sitting there and they don’t know what to do with it.”
The district also faced struggles with meals at Kodiak High School. Eighth-graders and ninth-graders now eat lunch together at the high school, but they each have different serving sizes or calorie limits.
“We had to have two lines,” Daws said. “Ninth grade’s starting calorie point is 750 where eighth grade stops at 700.”
Daws said parents in the district can expect to see a newsletter about the nutrition changes.
Alaska Child Nutrition Programs has been in charge of making sure Alaska schools are implementing the necessary nutrition changes.
“The changes were pretty vast, but so many districts were already making steps toward healthier choices,” said Jo Dawson, state program administrator for Alaska Child Nutrition Programs. “I think right now Alaska schools are positioned to be right at or close to the new nutrition standards.”
Schools have until the end of the school year to get certified. Schools that don’t meet certification will have a full review from Child Nutrition Programs and will not be eligible for the USDA’s compliance bonus, which provides 6 cents reimbursement for every school lunch served. The reimbursement funding becomes available to districts across the U.S. starting in October.
New calorie ranges for school lunches
Grades K-5 550 to 650 calories
Grades 6-8 600 to 700 calories
Grades 9-12 750 to 850 calories