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Lunch At NJ Schools Is Getting A Lot Healthier [AUDIO]

When Jersey kids head back to school next week, the lunches they’ll be served will a lot more nutritious than they used to be.

School Lunch
Flickr User U.S. Department of Agriculture

New government nutrition standards for school meals go into effect in September.

Rose Tricario, the Director of the Division of Food and Nutrition at the Jersey Department of Agriculture, says, “Lunch menus this year will now feature more fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, and only fat-free flavored or 1 percent white milk, and additionally, school districts must meet strict limits on saturated fat and portion size – with special attention to age-appropriate calorie limits.”

She says some of the menu items children have seen in the past have been reformulated.

“So pizzas might have whole wheat crusts – they will have reduced fat cheese, chicken nuggets will have a whole grain coating…The end result of all this is we’re going to have healthier children who will take what they learn about eating well into their adult lives – we want to teach them to make healthier choices.”

Tricario points out, “The staff from the Division of Food and Nutrition has been conducting workshops and webinars to assist food service directors in meeting the new changes, and helping them with compliance…We’ve actually participated with the New Jersey School Nutrition Association at their conference recently and we’ve provided some workshops there to the participants of the conference.”

She says the changes will only affect the lunch menu right now.

“The prior regulations covering breakfast also had a policy that regulated the snacks being served” says Tricario, “These regulations are part of the Healthy Hunger-free Kids Act, and there are different provisions of the Act that will be phased in over time- so next we’re we’ll be talking about changes to breakfasts and snacks as part of this.”

She also stresses, “All these changes involve the entire school community – they involve not only the food service staff, but it involves the faculty, the staff in the schools, the administration, and most importantly parents and guardians of the children- so that we incorporate all of the healthy choices – not only at school, but also at home.”

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