To eat or not to eat? School lunches aim to cut calories, salt
by Hilary Butschek
August 17, 2014 04:00 AM | 7425 views | 11 11 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The comfort line at Hillgrove High School features two meal choices and four side choices. Among entrees are Japanese cherry blossom chicken and a fresh salad, wrap or Caesar sub.<br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
The comfort line at Hillgrove High School features two meal choices and four side choices. Among entrees are Japanese cherry blossom chicken and a fresh salad, wrap or Caesar sub.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
A reach-in cooler at the Hillgrove High School cafeteria features various types of fresh salads for students to select.<br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
A reach-in cooler at the Hillgrove High School cafeteria features various types of fresh salads for students to select.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
Baked breaded chicken, squash casserole, steamed peas, chilled pears and skim milk at the Marietta High School cafeteria.<br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Baked breaded chicken, squash casserole, steamed peas, chilled pears and skim milk at the Marietta High School cafeteria.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
Asian chicken bites with brown rice, whole grain breadstick, oriental vegetables, glazed carrots, plum and 1% milk is one of the nutricious lunches offered in the Marietta High School cafeteria.<br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Asian chicken bites with brown rice, whole grain breadstick, oriental vegetables, glazed carrots, plum and 1% milk is one of the nutricious lunches offered in the Marietta High School cafeteria.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
MARIETTA — When mom isn’t standing over their shoulder, school nutritionists are there, telling children at Cobb and Marietta schools to eat their vegetables.

Gone are the flavored milks, sugary cookies and greasy pizza from the lunch line. Federal initiatives supported by a campaign to stay fit from first lady Michelle Obama have replaced the foods readily available outside of school with healthier options, and students are rebelling.

When school started last week, so did a new lunch menu. The menu includes two large-scale changes in reaction to the 2010 federal regulation Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act Marietta and Cobb schools are rolling out in stages, nutritionists said.

Whole-wheat flour is the main ingredient in all wheat products, instead of white flour. And food is being produced differently so sodium levels are lower.

“All items need to be whole-grain rich, which means they are 50 percent whole grain, or it’s the first thing on the ingredients list,” said Kelley Toon, a registered and licensed dietician with Cobb County schools.

The restrictions are meant to keep students healthy, Toon said, but some students are on the brink of protesting the menu changes.

“The new food is good for me, but I don’t really like it,” said Ryan Moore, a senior at Hillgrove High School.

High school students complained the new regulations are too restrictive on what students are allowed to eat.

“All these kids are preparing to go to college where they’re not going to be restricted,” said Catherine Jones, a senior at Hillgrove High School. “I think for elementary school kids, it’s OK. But for high schoolers, we should be able to eat what we like.”

Jones said she plans to start a petition against the new whole-grain menu and wants students to join her.

“I guess it’s healthier, but I know a lot of kids who aren’t eating it,” Jones said.

Cynthia Downs, the executive director of food and nutrition services for Cobb schools, said she hasn’t seen any students turn down the food.

But, a few students told the MDJ during one lunch period that homemade lunches were starting to look better and better, even if it meant waking up early to prepare them.

“A lot of the things taste different,” said Hillgrove junior Mallory Griffith. “It tastes OK, but not as good as last year. I’ll probably bring my lunch more this year.”

Jones said she had already seen more students bringing their lunches on the first few days of school.

For students who still buy lunch, Jones said the deli line backs up faster than any other.

“Not much has changed in the deli line,” Toon said.

Students are free to construct their own sub sandwich in the deli line, but it has to be made on a wheat bun.

“I wish they hadn’t done this my senior year. They could have done it next year,” Moore said.

Students at the high school seemed to be facing an internal battle between their conscience and their desires. Every student the MDJ spoke to acknowledged the new menu is healthier and better for them. But none of them like it, saying it’s not what they eat outside of school.

Moore said the fries at school taste nothing like those from McDonald’s, which are his favorite.

“The fries don’t taste good at all, and the chicken tenders are different. The cookies taste like mud,” Moore said.

Jones said it doesn’t matter if the food is good for you if no one will eat it.

“No kids anywhere actually want this food,” Jones said. “The wheat cookies — those are really gross.”

Menu changes

In the past four years, schools have changed other parts of their lunches to make them healthier, such as limiting the milk selection to low-fat and skim milk and offering more choices of fruits and vegetables with every meal.

This year, the schools are focusing on keeping the total calorie count for each lunch between 550 and 650 calories for grades kindergarten through fifth, between 600 and 700 calories for sixth through eighth grade and between 750 and 850 calories for ninth through 12th grade.

Using whole wheat as a main ingredient helps maintain a low calorie count, said Cindy Culver, nutrition director for the Marietta School District.

“Our lunches have improved by providing whole-grain products, which increases the amount of dietary fiber in one’s diet,” Culver said.

Toon said students are offered choices for each side at lunch, but they must take at least one fruit and one vegetable. This helps keep the meal balanced, she said.

“Meals are planned so that students can select certain items,” Toon said. “They can choose from a protein, two fruits, two vegetables and a milk. They need to have at least three of those components.”

In an effort to reduce the amount of sodium each student receives in a meal, they aren’t allowed to have an unlimited amount of condiments, said Kelly Crossley, area supervisor of food and nutrition services for Cobb schools. Students only get one packet of ketchup, salad dressing or salt with each meal.

All the deep-fat fryers in school cafeterias were replaced with new ovens over the summer, Downs said, to replace fried chicken and french fries with baked chicken and baked fries.

“Everyone knows fried food is not good for you, so this is a healthier way to prepare food,” Downs said. “They create a similar product without the oil. (The ovens) actually blow heat across the product, giving it a crispy outside without frying it.”

State P.E. requirements

In connection with a federal push for healthy foods, physical education requirements are still in place.

Kindergarteners through fifth-graders have to spend at least 50 minutes in a health class each week and at least 100 minutes in a PE class each week.

Although sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders don’t have to take a PE class, it is offered to them at Marietta and Cobb schools.

Those in seventh- through 12th-grades have to take a PE and a health class at least once, and they are offered a chance to play on 13 different sports teams in the districts.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Lunch Lady II
August 19, 2014
Some of your info is inaccurate. Subs have been served on whole wheat rolls for a couple of years now. All of the flavored milk choices are still available. All of the cookies are whole grain but they are selling well at our HS. Pickles are still being offered only limited to two slices. Pizza still made exactly same way as in the past just smaller portion. Parents if you want facts go to the source first, those of us who actually work in the cafeterias!
Blame the Feds
August 18, 2014
This article leaves the reader with the impression that it is the school or school district that put all these restrictions on the lunchroom food, when it's not. It's the Feds, as usual, trying to tell us how to live our lives, to the point that they are now telling our kids what they can and can't eat. I agree that there is a major obesity problem with our children today (and adults, too), but I have to think natural selection would tend to take care of that problem over time. Keep the federal government out of our personal dietary choices!
A Hillgrove student
August 17, 2014
One suprising regulation on the sodium intake is that they limit your condements quite radically. For example, I get a grilled chicken sub from the deli, and on it I get some cheese, lettuce, and banana peppers. When I ask for a few pickle slices, they staff simply shake their head and tell me that the pickles add too much sodium to my meal. That is going a little too far!!
Lunch Lady
August 17, 2014
Don't forget when you are encouraging these kids not to eat, you are also hurting the lunch ladies jobs!!!!!!!!! And taking away the free breakfast and lunch program means alot of kids will go hungry because their parents can't afford to feed them! It's not the kids fault their parents are in a lower income bracket. Really people????
never gourmet
August 17, 2014
School food was never gourmet although you would think it was by this story. Historically kids hate cafeteria food, get over it!
bashing First Lady
August 17, 2014
As a student a MHS I do not dislike the new menu and I think your article clearly did not talk to many of us who enjoy the new selections. I mean seriously the cookies taste like mud? The cookies served here are great, and whole wheat is what we eat at home so are you saying my mom is not a good provider? And really does anyone expect a high schooler to praise school food? Really? I really think this is all political, in fact it is an attempt to find a way to bash Mrs. Obama.
Bubba Jones
August 17, 2014
If the kids in school do not like the new lunch program, oh-well. Save the tax payer money bring your own lunch.
In the Trash
August 17, 2014
You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.... A.K.A. you can make the kids take a veggie and a fruit but that doesn't mean they will eat it.... I see LOTS going on the trash at our school UNEATEN. What a waste :(
Food wasted
August 17, 2014
You need to go into the cafeteria and watch how much food is thrown away. At the elementary level, they throw away most of their meal. Making them take food they don't like, just to say you served them a healthy meal, is a waste of money. MANY of the students at schools are on free lunch. It is throwing away my tax dollars. I think we need to stop free breakfast and lunch. Don't have kids if you can't feed them. Arrest parents who send their kids to school with no food and they will feed them. We continue to be the country of freebies which encourages people who can not afford kids to have them anyway!
August 17, 2014
you're right food wasted...It's Obama's fault as well. it's gotta be, it just has to be. The food has gone in the trash this year, last year, the year before that, the year before that, etc. It has nothing to do with what is being served now.

As a teacher I actually eat the school food most days, I don't just listen to what people who don't ever go in to the school have to say about wheat based foods.

If you are buying the food yourself then you have the choice to buy it or bring your own. If you are on free or reduced meals than i can rightly say if your going to get a free meal than your only option is what we give you. Which in this case we are deciding is going to be a healthy meal choice. If we were serving greasy, fatty food you same people would complain that we are feeding the obesity problem.

STOP GRIPING, FIND THE POSITIVE, FIND A SOLUTION AND BE A POSITIVE PART OF THE SOCIETY. I'll take my kids with great attitudes and no money than your whiny mouth any day.
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