So long, soda

School cafeterias change menus to meet new state and federal requirements regarding school food choices.

By: Donna Lukiw
   As part of an initiative to encourage students to eat healthy and exercise, Pomptonian, the Manville School District’s food service, has changed menus in all four school cafeterias.
   Manville schools have adopted new policies addressing student nutrition and physical activity to meet the new state and federal requirements regarding school food choices.
   "They have to have a wellness program by 2006," Cathy Panna, administrative manager of Pomptonian, said. "We’ve been taking strides in that direction."
   In June, former acting-Gov. Richard Codey and the New Jersey School Boards Association announced a new state policy limiting the sale of soda, candy or junk food in schools.
   According to the New Jersey School Boards Association, the Model School Nutrition Policy requires every school district to develop a comprehensive nutrition policy by September 2007 that will promote healthy eating habits and provide students with nutritional foods in the cafeteria and vending machines.
   Pomptonian is now offering a minimum number of calories while limiting the number of calories from fat and saturated fat.
   The menus are also designed to provide key nutrients that are important to a healthy lifestyle.
   The cafeterias feature a complete balanced meal every day including an entrée with bread, two servings of fruit and/or vegetables and a milk selection.
   The high school has 10 to 15 hot meals available daily and they also have salad and deli sandwich meals.
   The middle school has five hot meals daily, salad platters and assorted deli meals while the elementary school has two hot meals and two changing cold lunch selections like deli meals and chef salads.
   "I think a healthy balanced meal gets them ready to learn," Ms. Panna said. "The changes that are implemented are more in the a la carte and keeping the less, healthy snacks out of the cafeteria."
   The high school and middle school offer a variety of salad platters prepared fresh each day with assorted garden vegetables and students can choose from a variety of cold cuts.
   Besides offering healthy foods, the cafeterias celebrates many nutritional events each year including Heart Healthy Month, National School Lunch Week and National Physical Activity Month.
   The cafeteria also features a Nutrition Education monthly newsletter with fun facts and important information for developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
   "Anytime you talk to students about healthy choices it will help them to have a balanced lifestyle," Ms. Panna said.
   The new guidelines include all grade levels and applies to foods being sold in the cafeterias, vending machines, snack bars, school stores, fundraisers and a la carte lines.
   According to the new policy, during the school day, schools may not serve, sell or give out candy or soda, food or drinks listing sugar in any form as the main ingredient or any foods of minimal nutritional value as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
   Also, all snacks and beverages cannot contain more than 8 grams of total fat per serving, and no more than 2 grams of saturated fat per serving. Beverages cannot exceed 12 ounces, except for water or 2 percent milk, and servings of whole milk cannot be larger than 8 ounces.
   Each school’s curriculum must also include nutrition education.
   Students will be allowed to pack sweets and snacks in their lunches they bring from home.
   School lunches also offer only milk or juice, rather than sodas.