Schools Now Serving Up Revamped Meals, Rules

By Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou, EGP Staff Writer

The first national overhaul of school and breakfast lunch menus in fifteen years took effect with the start of this 2012-2013 school year. Expect more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, says Montebello Unified School District (MUSD) Nutrition Services Director Victoria Cheung.

As for what qualifies under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 guidelines, Cheung says yes, is does include the tomato paste used in pizzas, but at least at MUSD, they are not planning on counting pizza as a vegetable.

First Lady Michelle Obama has lunch with students at Parklawn Elementary School in Alexandria, Va., Jan. 25, 2012. The First Lady and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited the school to sample a healthy meal that meets the United States Department of Agriculture's new and improved nutrition standards for school lunches. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

In the first year, districts must serve at least half its starches as whole grains, which will be used in everything from pizza bread to tortillas, she says. By the second year, all starches they serve must be made from whole grains.

Lunch rooms must also begin offering both fruits and vegetables, whereas before they only had to serve one or the other. Cheung says for a district to be reimbursed by the federal government, they have to entice students to take and eat at least half a cup of vegetables or fruit.

Other requirements include only serving plain low fat 1 percent milk and non-fat milk that can be either plain or flavored. Previously, school meals did not have calorie caps, but beginning this year meals have a minimum and maximum calorie limit depending on grade level. For example, students in the kindergarten through fifth grades will get lunches between 550 and 650 calories, those in sixth through eighth grades will get 600 to 700 calorie lunches, and high school students will be served lunches with calorie contents between 750 to 850. School lunch providers are also required to cutback on sodium by the 2014-15 school year.

The lunches at MUSD are available at free or reduced prices for students’ whose family household incomes qualify; or at full prices that range between 75 cents to a dollar for breakfasts, and between $1.75 to $2.25 for lunches, depending on grade level.

Families can apply for free or reduced lunches by filling out an application with the school district to determine their eligibility. The person filling out the application is not required to have a Social Security number, and can indicate they do not have one.

For more information about MUSD school meal application, call (323) 887-7978.. MUSD lunch and breakfast menus can be found on the district’s nutritional services website:

To learn more about the new national school meals guidelines, visit

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September 18, 2012  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


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