Congress is considering legislation that would block requirements making school-provided meals healthier beginning next year.
Some members of Congress say cutting starch and reducing sodium would be too costly for schools. Those were part of the recommendations from the Institute of Medicine to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The appropriations bill would also continue allowing pizza sauce to be counted as a vegetable.
But Jefferson County Public Schools has already begun moving toward healthier meals. The district has improved its nutrition services the past few years and district officials say it already complies with some of the recommendations from IOM, said Martha Dysart, JCPS nutrition service center manager.
“Our pizza, the crust is whole grain and we’ve switched to that probably four or five years ago. We’ve never counted the tomato paste as a vegetable; we just count it as a meat and a bread,” said Dysart.
JCPS has been tinkering with several recipes the past year with chef Jim Whaley who has been charged with decreasing the sodium while maintaining the flavor, which isn’t always easy, he said. Part of his job requires students to taste his experiments, like dried fruit (pictured).
Whaley has helped the district decrease the amount of sodium in some recipes by up to 46 percent, wrote Julia Bauscher, Director of JCPS School and Community Nutrition Services.
“With potatoes—we have gradually reduced the number of times we serve potatoes each week. On our elementary menu we generally offer one serving of French fries or tater tots and one serving of whipped potatoes or baked potato per week,” she said.
JCPS is also increasing its food awareness among students. It has extended school gardens to 27 JCPS schools this year.