CK Schools are changing the menu

Central Kitsap schools have taken a bite into the new school year, and with it comes a few changes. Particularly to school meals.


Central Kitsap schools have taken a bite into the new school year, and with it comes a few changes.

Particularly to school meals.

“It’s delicious,” said 9-year-old Sandra, of her lunch at John D. “Bud” Hawk Elementary at Jackson Park.

Sandra, a fourth grader, munched through a chicken burger during lunch on Sept. 23. She liked the option, but accented it with ketchup.

The barbecue sandwich is Sandra’s favorite food served in the lunchroom, though. After picking up her burger from the lunchroom window, Sandra migrated over to the salad bar, filled with juice, milk, fruits and vegetables. Sandra knows what she likes to pick out there.

“Usually the fruit, any kind I like,” she said.

Sandra leaves the vegetables alone, though, she notes with a disapproving frown.

Hawk Elementary is like other schools throughout the nation that have implemented new United States Department of Agriculture guidelines for school meals, ever since the passing of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The act was championed by First Lady Michelle Obama, and aims to improve the nutritional standards of young students’ meals and fight health concerns for youth such as obesity. Salt, sugar, fats and other unhealthy ingredients have been lowered. Other items, such as fruits, vegetables, protein, and whole grains have been given priority.

“We are in the third year of implementing those guidelines,” said Sam Blazer, food service director for the Central Kitsap School District. “Each year there has been progressively more things that we have to comply with.”

“These are really the big changes,” he said. “We’ve always offered a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. What’s different now is the portion sizes for fruits and vegetables have increased. Students are now required to have a half-a-cup of fruits or vegetables in order for us to count the meal for reimbursement and to meet the guidelines.”

When a school such as Hawk Elementary serves a meal that meets the USDA guidelines, it can be reimbursed by the state and federal government, Blazer said.

“They basically deal with meal pattern requirements around portions sizes,” he said.

This school year saw the implementation of more whole grains.

“Effective this year, all bread grain products have to meet the new definition of ‘whole grain,’” Blazer said. “If a bread product has flour of any kind in it, 51 percent of that flour has to meet the definition. So if it’s a flour tortilla or a bagel the breading in pizza, it has to meet their definition.”

Blazer said that many manufacturers have adapt-Tart, for example.

“Pop-Tarts have been modified to include the new definitions,” Blazer said. “Manufactures are making new products to meet the new guidelines for schools.”

Blazer said that manufacturers have spent considerable dollars redeveloping products.

“The pizza that we use, the manufacturers are on their fifth version of whole grain defined pizza crust,” Blazer said. “It’s a difficult profile of taste, texture to meet for students. It’s more dense, it’s heavier.”

“Any product that meets this definition will weigh more,” he said. “That’s one of the more difficult things that students are adapting to. It’s not the flavor profile that they are used to.”

Flavor is not the only change Blazer has noticed. He said that the numbers of meals served in Central Kitsap schools have decreased ever since the new guidelines were introduced.

“Most of the completed new guidelines, as it affects breakfast, kicked in during the last school years,” Blazer said. “In doing so we experienced a decrease in breakfast participation.”

“This year all of the new guidelines as they apply to lunch go into affect,” he said. “We are now seeing that (decrease) happen to lunch. Not to the degree that we did with breakfast.”

Cost is also another change to consider, Blazer said.

“Because of these new guidelines, the cost of producing the meal have increased significantly so we have been forced to increase the price of that meal,” he said.

Blazer noted that while the guidelines are now being phased in, things can still change. Funding for the school meals law ends after this school year, Blazer said. Funding will have to be reauthorized by congress to keep the guidelines going.

“Whether they keep these guidelines intact remains to be seen,” Blazer said. “Congress can delay the authorization and still fund it. We just take it as it comes.”