More healthful foods at school

Officials will be replacing snacks with items lower in fat and sugar

Education Beat

October 02, 2005|By KATIE MARTIN | KATIE MARTIN,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

After making their way through the school lunch line, Katie Pickett and Erin Dean squeezed their trays between friends at a crowded table so they could eat their lunches - soft tacos, corn, cookies and milk.

Jennifer Glock was already chowing down on her taco, while other students around her in Westminster High School's cafeteria munched on Fruit Roll-Ups, ice cream sandwiches and fudge Popsicles.

"If it's there, then I eat it. I really don't care what they have," said Glock, a 15-year-old sophomore from Westminster.

But the extra items that students can purchase alongside their lunch will soon be changing. School officials are looking to replace unhealthful snack foods served in vending machines and in the lunch line with ones that are lower in fat and sugar.

Guidelines on health and nutrition are being revised in response to standards approved by the state Board of Education in February.

The state is discouraging the sale of certain snacks during the school day and is requiring all districts to establish a local nutrition policy by Jan. 31.

A committee led by Stephen H. Guthrie, assistant superintendent of administration, has been reviewing Carroll's policy.

Guthrie said the major changes related to the nutritional value of food dispensed during the school day, particularly items in vending machines and the a la carte items in the cafeteria - not school lunches.

"Schools across the country have been serving unregulated food - the a la carte meal - that is the pizza, the salads, and the packaged foods like Twinkies and Little Debbie cakes," Guthrie said. "Effective for the '06-'07 school year, those foods become regulated and have to meet certain fat and sugar requirements."

Under the new standards, schools would eliminate snacks with more than 9 grams of total fat, 2 grams of saturated fat and 15 grams of sugar.

Eulalia Muschik, supervisor of food services, said many packaged items that don't meet nutrition standards have already been changed.

"For example, now if they have chips at the school, they're baked," Muschik said. Portion sizes are being decreased, too.

"One of the things students liked was the honey bun ... but that's actually two servings, and the policy basically says it can only be one serving," Muschik said. She said the serving size of the a la carte french fries would also be reduced to meet the fat level of 9 grams.

"The manufacturing companies don't have all of the items that meet the 9-2-15 guidelines," she said. "But so many states are passing nutritional guidelines, they are having to work to produce foods that meet those guidelines."

The new policy does not affect the regular school lunch, which is already regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, Guthrie said.

"It's part of the National School Lunch program. It's what's listed on our menu. It's food that in combination already meets nutritional guidelines, and nothing in that changes," he said.

The new guidelines will change the operation of vending machines, which are currently off from the first school bell to the last school bell, he said.

"Under the new policy, those that dispense foods of minimal nutritional value would be off from 12:01 a.m. to the end of the instructional day," Guthrie said. "Those that meet nutritional requirements outlined in the policy could be open 24 hours a day, so a mixture of machines would be on and off during the school day."

Items of minimal nutritional value include soda, gum and candy. Beverages that can be dispensed during the day include water, milk, energy drinks and juices that contain 100 percent juice or 100 percent vitamin C.

As far as the sale of baked goods or other snacks for fundraisers, Muschik said, "Basically, the policy says that [groups] are not supposed to be doing that; they should be looking at [selling] items that aren't food related. Any food that's available during the school day has to meet the guidelines."

Brendan Schlauch, the school board's student representative, said he didn't think students would be up in arms about the new policy, because the schools are going to keep selling ice cream.

"I think it will be different, but in a lot of other school systems it will be a lot different because they don't already meet the standards," Schlauch said. "Carroll County has done a pretty good job. We've already met many of the guidelines. There's just a few things we have to do better."

Muschik said Carroll's revised policy would be mandatory in all elementary, middle and high schools when it is approved. A vote could come during the last school board meeting this month.

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