North Texas Daily

School cafeterias remove unhealthy foods from menus

School cafeterias remove unhealthy foods from menus

September 03
23:26 2009

State expands nutrition policy

By Chris Speight / Senior Staff Writer –

When secondary school cafeterias opened lunch lines this fall, Texas students found fried meal items replaced by healthier alternatives.

The change is the latest attempt by state officials to address rising child obesity rates by reducing fatty foods on school lunch menus.

A change in state policy requires all public schools to remove fatty foods from cafeteria menus. (Photo by Khai Ha / Staff Photographer)

A change in state policy requires all public schools to remove fatty foods from cafeteria menus. (Photo by Khai Ha / Staff Photographer)

One of the new amendments to the Texas Public School Nutrition Policy requires middle schools and high schools rid their racks of fried foods. It was added in August and is effective throughout the school year.

Elementary schools have not been allowed to fry foods since the original nutrition policy was implemented in August 2004.

There are no longer vending machines in public schools and coke machines are only stocked with juices, sports drinks or water, according to the policy.

School districts in the state saw the need to modify the nutrition offered to students after realizing that they could potentially eat two meals of cafeteria food per day, said Robin Wantland, child nutrition director for the Denton Independent School District.

“There are several different areas that the policy addresses: one is portion size, one has to do with fat content and sugar content in food items, another area that has been addressed is what’s called foods of minimal nutritional value such as soft drinks, candies, Popsicles, chewing gums,” Wantland said.

Although the public school districts are federally funded, this state policy affects all grades from pre-school through 12th grade, she said.

Wantland said many groups in the school system think there should be a federal nutrition policy that all states must follow because it would be less confusing to everyone and easier for manufacturers to respond to the schools’ needs.

“Frito Lay may make a produce a package of chips that may be OK to sell in Arkansas, but it’s one-tenth of an ounce too large to sell in the state of Texas, so they have to change up their packaging just for Texas,” she said. “It drives up the cost; it makes it difficult for manufacturers to know the market.”

To replace the fried foods, public schools have switched to baking.

As for UNT, there are still fried foods, but there are plenty of health conscious options, said Kathy Butler, dietician for UNT dining services.

“We fry some,” she said. “At Mean Greens, we don’t fry because that’s our healthy dining option. At other locations we do serve some fried foods, but we try to limit it to no more than one a day.”

Butler said the cafeterias use healthier oils for frying food.

“But still fried foods are best thought of as an extra,” she said.

At every cafeteria on campus there are a variety of meats including red meat, poultry and vegetarian, Butler said.

“Some people who are trying to watch cholesterol perhaps or other parts of their diet, don’t want to have all red meat,” she said.

There are labels on all foods at UNT so that consumers can tell if it is a vegetarian, vegan or a light item, which is lower in calories and fat.

Through the labeling system, students with allergies can tell if a food contains eggs, wheat or nuts, she said.

For vegetarians, Bruce Hall is known for it’s vegetarian menus, Butler said.

“Over the years we’ve had a bigger group at Bruce who wanted to eat vegetarian food, so we try to continue that,” she said.

In the University Union, retail-managed operations are being phased out and replaced by UNT dining services management, Butler said.

“You may be seeing some new brands,” she said. “We’re working toward accommodating students requests for declining balance, so even if you have a dining plan you can use it in the retail operation.”

Butler said UNT is looking to provide even healthier foods by taking the organic route.

“We try to purchase some organic foods for Mean Green, but we’re having some problems finding vendors,” she said.

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