School lunches could be changing across the country, and some changes are already happening in Oregon.
Kyle Micken, area manager for Sodexo, said the main changes coming to lunches in Oregon would be the additions of flavored milk and white pastas to the menu.
While schools can start offering those items now, there have been a few delays in getting the new products in the schools.
Micken said it will take some time to implement those new guidelines because there’s a significant amount of whole-grain pasta in storage that needs to be used first.
Schools already offer chocolate milk to students, but can start adding strawberry milk, root beer milk or other flavored milks. However, Micken noted that “a lot of dairies have discontinued making those products” due to federal guidelines.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed new rules for federal guidelines pertaining to student lunches on Jan. 16 that would increase flexibility for vegetable requirements, make it simpler to serve meat or meat alternatives for breakfast and expand entrees for a la carte purchases.
The rule will be open for public comment through www.regulations.gov until March 23.
The proposed new rules would “provide flexibilities that will better enable schools to serve nutritious food children will be eager to eat,” according to USDA.
In an article published in The Washington Post, Colin Schwartz, deputy director of legislative affairs for the Center for Science in Public Interest, said the proposed rules “would create a huge loophole in school nutrition guidelines, paving the way for children to choose pizza, burgers, french fries and other foods high in calories, saturated fat or sodium in place of balanced school meals every day.”
Locally, schools are working to get more homegrown vegetables on the menu through school gardens by working with Oregon State University Extension Service, Blue Zones Project Umpqua and other local groups.
The USDA gave away $1.2 billion in food throughout the nation as a result of international trade disputes, which went to schools and food banks nationwide. The department has a long history of purchasing and distributing products from farmers during tough years.
None of the Douglas County schools serviced by Sodexo received those items, because Micken said there was no place to store the items and it would’ve created extra waste.