The new look of school lunches

Sue Kraft
Devils Lake Public Schools give menu a makeover.

Devils Lake Public Schools give menu a makeover

The lunch trays in the Devils Lake Public Schools will look a little different this year due to a national mandate intended to combat childhood obesity.

Superintendent Scott Privratsky said to meet the federal regulations, they have made a number of changes to the menu including smaller meat portions and larger portions of fruits and vegetables.

“One of the significant changes will be increased servings of vegetables and fruits with the veggies having to fall into specific color groups,” he said. “The new rules require high school students be offered one-half cup of dark green vegetables per week, which include foods like spinach, broccoli and romaine lettuce.”

He said the schools must also offer one and three-quarter cups of red and orange vegetables weekly, including carrots, squash, tomatoes, red peppers and sweet potatoes.

The breads and pasta will also undergo a makeover.

“At least half of the grains served at school must be whole grains,” Privratsky said. “This change will not only be noticeable in the bread served, but also in tortilla shells, whole-grain spaghetti, as well as other grain products.”

Pizza crusts and corn dogs will also be whole grain rich.

Privratsky said the menus were screened by the Department of Public Instruction and had to stay within strict guidelines for calories and carbohydrates.

Cooks and servers at the school have been trained on the new menus and portion sizes.

“We've been working on this since last spring,” he said, noting that the district consulted a nutritionist to design the new menu. The menus, along with all of the food product labels, were then sent to the DPI for approval.

“We will continually strive to carefully plan menus that conform to the regulations and offer meals that are varied, appetizing and well prepared,” Privratsky said.

In a letter to schools, the DPI noted that in the past schools were only given a minimum amount of meat or meat alternative (cheese, yogurt, peanut butter) and grains they could offer, but could offer more if they desired. Now, the schools are required to stay within specific ranges for each age group, meaning portions may be smaller.

According to the new regulations, extra meat and bread can only be offered as a la carte items and the students must be charged for them. Even students receiving free or reduced meals must pay for seconds.

Privratsky said the new menu will be a change, but he is confident the transition will go smoothly.

“I have a tremendous amount of trust and respect for our food service staff,” he said.

When asked how he expects the students to react, he answered with a smile, “Probably better than most of the adults.”

Privratsky agreed the changes will be “interesting.”

“We're used to eating fast food that's probably not the best for us,” he said. “It'll be a change, but the students usually adjust pretty well.”