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More on the new school lunches

The Chron published a Sunday story about the changes to school lunches that we can expect this year.

Among the items debuting on Houston-area school lunch menus this academic year: yams, Brussels sprouts, acorn squash, edamame and bok choy.

Sushi, Cuban pork tacos and spinach salads also will be served up as some area school districts try to meet increasing pressure to offer more nutritious school lunches.

Old favorites, such as chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese, remain on most menus but have been overhauled to be healthier. Houston ISD, the state’s largest school system, lowered sodium in elementary lunches by an average of 70 milligrams this year. They’ve added almost a gram of fiber to the average school lunch and decreased fat by more than 70 percent in some entrees by switching from beef to ground turkey.

“The focus for the entire summer has really been on the menu and the improvement of the menu,” said Brian Giles, who oversees food services for HISD.


But with tougher national standards expected to be introduced soon, school districts are pre-emptively overhauling their meals. The challenge: persuading youngsters to try new foods without increasing costs.

Schools receive up to $2.72 federal reimbursement for a lunch served to a child from a low-income family.

They hope funding will be increased to cover the cost of more fresh, locally grown items.

“Whole grains cost more. Fresh vegetables cost more – both the product itself and the labor to prepare it,” said Melanie Konarik, director of child nutrition for Spring ISD.

Yes, these things always come down to money, don’t they? It’s much cheaper to eat bad food than to eat healthy food. At least, until you start feeling the effects of all that unhealthy eating. It would help if those who allocate money for school lunches, especially those who claim to be deeply concerned about deficits and long-term spending trends, would take this sort of penny wisdom into account. Nice thought, isn’t it? For more details, I refer you back to The Lunch Tray, whose author Bettina Siegel was quoted in the story.

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  1. […] Elias Siegel, the lady behind The Lunch Tray, gets her op-ed on HISD’s healthier lunch choices published in the Chron. One critical piece of the puzzle is student food education. But […]