Student diet, school dilemma: Schools worry about newest change

TIPPECANOE CO., Ind. (WLFI) – Over the past two years the USDA has implemented strict guidelines in an effort to make school lunches more healthy, and they are about to get more strict. By this time next year, school lunches must have 10 percent less sodium than they do now. The people who serve those lunches are worried kids won’t eat lunches which meet this latest guideline.

School lunches are already healthier in lunch rooms across Tippecanoe County as food service director’s work to meet new stricter sodium guidelines six months ahead of the deadline, but that doesn’t mean kids are happy.

“I don’t like the cheese on the pizza. I just take off the cheese and eat the bread and the sauce,” said LSC third grader Davionna Lewis.

“Mashed potatoes, because they taste like water,” said TSC third grader Joslyn Bishop.

Schools have already started to limit sodium by using USDA-offered canned foods as well as meats and cheeses with reduced sodium levels. Food service directors say they are already aware of the complaints. But they hope by preparing in advance, they can tweak the recipe.

“Things are a little more bland. We still have to look at the calorie levels, the saturated fat. No trans-fat and of course the sodium levels,” said TSC Food Service director Donna Shofroth.

“We’re going to have to do some scratch cooking and experiment with different seasoning to make the food have some flavor to it that they’ll like,” said WLCSC Food Service director Jim Tyner.

Food service directors aren’t the only ones watching sodium levels. Food manufacturers have also had to change the amount of sodium in their products, and they’ve had to tweak their recipes too.

“The one patty we had got thinner and thinner to where all you were eating was just the bread. And the bread is so big and the patty is so small that you can’t even taste it,” said LSC fourth grader Jada Barnes.

“Before it was kind of like cardboard, but it’s come a long way, and they’ve had to reformulate multiple times because of it,” said Shofroth.

So far, the experimenting seems to be a success.

“We have started to scratch cook a little bit more, which is like our taco meat and spaghetti sauce. That way we can control what sodium goes into that product. Students have accepted that better than anything,” said Shofroth.

And, while some have accepted it.

“It keeps you healthy and makes sure you’re not sick, helps your brain and makes you smart,” said Lewis.

For others, the dilemma is whether to finish their tray.

“I think I’m hungry because I don’t, mostly, eat the vegetables here,” said LSC fourth grader Braydin Wilson.

“There’s a lot of the food that I’m throwing away. I’m wasting like a whole carton of milk and I don’t eat any of the vegetables here,” said Barnes.

Food service directors said it is still a work in progress, but all schools must follow the new standards for sodium levels by the fall.

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