Food is being served differently in the cafeterias of local school districts this year.
Kimberly Gregory, food service director for Batavia and Williamsburg schools, presented some of these changes to Batavia board members at their Sept. 17 meeting.
“This year we’ve been handed a great deal of changes through the USDA,” Gregory said. “Some changes I really look forward to an agree with, others will be more difficult.”
Gregory highlighted some of the changes that have been made to meals in the cafeteria because of the new regulations from the United States Department of Agriculture.
Gregory said the new “meal deal” this year requires students to choose foods from three of five food groups including grains, protein, fruits, vegetables and dairy.
“An added requirement is one of the three must be a fruit or veggie,” Gregory said.
She said students must meet the tray requirement of at least three components and one fruit or vegetable to check out at lunch.
“The other big change is the USDA now tells us what vegetables to offer,” Gregory said.
She said they suggest the types and quantity of dark green vegetables, starchy vegetables and beans schools should offer.
Gregory said they have been incorporating different selections of fruits and vegetables that meet these requirements, hoping students will not only put them on their plate but also eat and enjoy them.
“We are able to give them things they will eat,” Gregory said about the selections they have come up with.
Gregory said they have been including vegetable cups with carrots, broccoli and cucumbers with a bit of ranch dressing.
“That has gone over really well,” Gregory said.
She said they also offer different fresh fruit choices for students.
“That is working, they’re loving it and it’s exciting to see them doing that,” Gregory said about students eating the new foods.
In addition, Gregory said the new requirements have increased portion sizes on vegetables at the high school level from 1/2 cup to one cup and have also regulated portions of grains and protein throughout the school week.
“Meat offerings, breads and cheese are decreasing,” Gregory said. “That is the part that has been a struggle.”
Gregory said finding the right formula for grains, protein and dairy for the week is almost like a Rubik’s Cube puzzle.
She said just when you have one group complete another side has things missing and you have to start all over.
For example, she said at the elementary school they used to offer a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day because that is all some children would eat. She said this year that puts them over on the bread requirement.
She said at the high school they have had to do things like exclude cheese from burgers at lunch one day so they can keep cheese as an ingredient for tacos another day.
“We have had to be very creative this year,” Gregory said.
Gregory said so far, the changes have been going over pretty well with students.
“So far our numbers are not down,” Gregory said about students buying their lunch.
Gregory encouraged parents and students to check out the new website that can be found by clicking departments and food services at www.bataviaschools.org.
She said the new website highlights the changes this year and provides additional nutritional information and guidelines.