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Schools increase focus on fresh produce

(August 30, 2012 - The Packer)—Updated nutrition guidelines are dramatically increasing demand for some fresh produce items and are transforming school lunches for nearly 32 million students.

While cost and student acceptance of increased servings of fruit and vegetables are concerns, school foodservice directors were positive about the new guidelines.

Schools in Emporia, Kan., are using about three times as much fresh produce as last year at the same time, said Jill Vincent, school foodservice director for the Emporia school district, with 4,600 students. “Our coolers are filled to the roof of produce that we are purchasing.”

Vincent said students are taking and eating the fruits and vegetables.

“That’s the goal of this, and that’s a good thing.” she said.

The updated school lunch rules are the first change in the standards in 15 years, implemented as a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

In January, first lady Michelle Obama announced the school meal nutrition standards, and the new rules went into effect in July. In August, the first lady issued a video encouraging kids to embrace the new school meal plan.

The new standards increased requirements for fruits and vegetables in school lunches from the previous one-half to three-fourths of a cup (combined) per day to the new requirement of three-fourths to one cup of vegetables plus one-half to one cup of fruit per day.

The regulations also say that children must take at least one serving of fruits or vegetables for the meal to be reimbursable.

Read more on The Packer website.

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