School nutrition directors find it difficult to offer healthier lunches

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Schools across the country agree with First Lady Michelle Obama that schools need healthier food options. How to do that, is the challenging part.

“It’s gotten really tough to make meals for students,” said Nelson Lacey, a culinary arts instructor at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School in Northampton.

School nutrition directors say they are having trouble making their lunch programs meet two-year-old federal requirements. Meals need to be low salt and high in whole grain. They need to offer lots of fruits and vegetables, too.

Smith Voc. has been recognized for its healthy menu, but it’s still a daily challenge.

“Trying to find kid-friendly foods that meet the nutritional guidelines, which is really one of our biggest focuses, is what do the kids want and how do we fit that into what we can give them,” said Lacey.

Students said it is working: their favorite lunch is Caesar salad.

“They seem more like homemade. Like all the other schools seemed like fake food…Junior High they used to sell like brownies and everything at lunch and they don’t sell that as much anymore as they did back then,” Smith Voc. Freshman Stone Mitchell told 22News.

At the start of next school year, schools will be required to serve foods that are rich in whole grains. At Smith Voc., Food Service Coordinator Heather Bouley said they’ve already been doing that since 2010.

“I don’t think people would really notice. Just like, whole grain bread doesn’t taste that much different than regular bread so I think they could pull that off,” said Jon Lane, a freshman at Smith.

Smith Voc. does have an advantage: 15 percent of their meat comes from animals on their own farms. Federal rules also focus on healthier school breakfasts. Smith was just awarded a grant for a smoothie machine to help with that.

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