Back to school is a time for new beginnings and a fresh start…an evolution into the next class and next grade. Even foodservice for schools is evolving again this year with new rules and regulations.
Whole grains continue to be a trend, and this year all grains served (breakfast, lunch and a la carte) must be whole grain rich – EXCEPT one exemption. Earlier this spring, an exemption was approved in the pasta category. Upon approval, schools can now serve either whole grain OR regular pasta.
Sodium remains a highly scrutinized nutrient. This year, we begin the stepped sodium reduction for breakfast and lunch. (Find more information about this at www.fns.usda.gov.) Many of our manufacturers reduced the sodium content of their items to fit these new standards.
Again this year, fruits and vegetables are a focus. The fruit served at breakfast needs to be increased to 1 cup offered per day, thus 5 cups per week. Also at breakfast, for a reimbursable meal to count, it must include a fruit or vegetable (1/2 cup minimum) to offer menu flexibility and count as a reimbursable meal.
Smart Snacks is the wave of the future for a la carte and vending programs. We have a new calculator to work with and set of standards to determine what items can be sold as a competitive food. For those in Iowa, under the Healthy Kids Act, there were similar standards, but Iowa is now going to the national standards for nutrition. We have updated our Healthy Kids Act page to a *NEW* Smart Snacks page with new links and an updated list of products that comply with the new standards. (Find this at www.MartinsMart.com under Resources, USDA Smart Snacks.)
Do not forget about students with special nutritional needs, as they continue to be on the rise – from those with allergies and intolerances to diabetes and heart disease to religious restrictions. Offering variety can help students make good choices according to their needs. Also, for students with allergies, using special equipment and supplies (such as purple-colored ones) that you use separately can help prevent cross contamination.