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USDA proposal for school lunches concerns some Alabama schools

Huntsville-Decatur WAFF 3/13/2023 Julia Avant
Nevada bill could make school lunch free. © Provided by Huntsville-Decatur WAFF Nevada bill could make school lunch free.

ELMORE COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - The United States Department of Agriculture proposed several changes to school nutrition standards that, if implemented, would reduce the amount of sugar & sodium in food, require more foods to be made with whole grains, and change which types of milk are served in cafeterias.

Elmore County Schools currently offer lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables sourced locally from area farmers.

This proposal could impact or even restrict foods ranging from flavored milk to yogurts and specific prepackaged snacks like pop-tarts or cereal bars.

The Elmore County Schools’ Director of Child Nutrition, Cacyce Davis, is worried about the proposal though, saying these changes are not doable.

“We have dealt with changing our models many times for feeding kids since responding to the pandemic, also the result in supply chain issues,” said Davis.

If the government implements these new rules, school meal distributors will need to change the products they offer to schools.

The change would likely wind up making school meals more expensive, which concerns Davis, who says that right now, Elmore County Schools can only budget $4 per student meal.

“The food manufacturers are very concerned with their ability to make the changes that would be required to be made,”

Davis’s concerns over the changes extend beyond the budget.

From a law that altered federal standards in 2010 to the unexpected changes forced upon schools by the Pandemic and subsequent supply chain disruptions, Davis says many students in Elmore County actually wound up eating less when served different foods.

“The more familiar kids are with food, the more likely they are to accept them at any time you make a significant change to the taste to the appearance of food and nay nutritional content change would do just that it’s going to change the acceptability to those foods,” said Davis

The effects of changes to current School Nutrition Standards could be felt beyond the kids in the cafeteria as districts address rising costs and shifting food sources.

Currently, the USDA is in the commentary phase and taking any comments or concerns from schools, parents, and students.

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