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UCS Adjusts School Lunch Offerings To Comply with New USDA Standards

The United States Department of Agriculture has set new requirements for public school lunches that will alter the foods students will be served in cafeterias this year.

Schools nationwide will be serving healthier lunches this year, and Utica Community Schools are no exception. Like other districts across the country, they will implement new guidelines set by the United States Department of Agriculture this year that aim to improve the quality of school lunches by increasing their nutritional value.

"Our goal in food service continues to be to provide healthy menu options that will effectively support the learning environment in our schools," said UCS Spokesman Tim McAvoy.

School lunches are now separated into five components: meats/meat alternates, grains, fruits, vegetables and milk. A student must take three of the five components for it to be considered a meal, and one of those components must be at least one serving of a fruit or vegetable.

UCS students will notice a slight change in menu options this year compared to past years.

  • More vegetable and fresh fruit options to choose from such as grapes, strawberries, and carrots.
  • Students will also see increased offerings of foods made from whole grain.
  • The milk that is being served will either be one percent or fat free, in compliance with the new federal regulations.
  • There has also been a reduction the size of products such as ice tea that may contain sugar. 
  • The new rules will also reduce sodium and saturated fat levels in school meals.

Additionally, the USDA has regulated the minimum and maximum amounts of certain meal components that schools can give to each student:

Kindergarten-Grade 5:

  • Fruits: ½ cup minimum per day
  • Vegetables: ¾ cup minimum per day
  • Grains: 8-9 ounces per week
  • Meats/meat alternates: 8-10 ounces per week
  • Calories: 550-650 calories per lunch
  • Trans fat: 0 trans fat

Grades 6-8:

  • Fruits: ½ cup minimum per day
  • Vegetables: ¾ cup minimum per day
  • Grains: 8-10 ounces per week
  • Meats/meat alternates: 9-10 ounces per week
  • Calories: 600-700 calories per lunch
  • Trans fat: 0 trans fat

Grades 9-12:

  • Fruits: 1 cup minimum per day
  • Vegetables: 1 cup minimum per day
  • Grains: 10-12 ounces per week
  • Meats/meat alternates: 10-12 ounces per week
  • Calories: 750-850 calories per lunch
  • Trans fat: 0 trans fat

Snacks and beverages

While the new guidelines do not come with mandates for snacks served at school, UCS said it does not serve soda, but some ice cream options are still available for lunch.  However, the schools cannot control what goes into the vending machines.

Vending machines with Pepsi products, including Gatorade, can be found in the hallways of UCS schools, but are turned off during school hours.

"The intent of the vending machines is to provide a service for students participating in after school activities. The machines are not on during instructional times but some machines are available during lunch," said McAvoy.

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