School lunches getting a little bigger Wednesday

MORGAN CITY, La. — School lunches are increasing in size, and students are happy about the change.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told members of Congress in a letter Friday that the department will do away with daily and weekly maximums of meats and grains. Several lawmakers wrote the department after the new rules went into effect in September saying kids aren’t getting enough to eat.

School administrators also complained, saying set maximums on grains and meats are too limiting as they try to plan daily meals.

Lots of students complained too.

“I think it’s good that they’re doing that because it’s helping obese kids, but, at the same time, we are teenagers. We’re not in pre-k, and we do need food,” said Caylee Deshotel, a Morgan City Junior High School eighth-grader.

The biggest change from the previous year, according to Luke Matherne, is that “the bread sizes are really small and the milk kinda tastes funny. Sometimes it’s bad and sometimes it’s good. It’s a roll of the dice.”

The only milk choices are low fat or no fat.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved an increase in bread size for students in pre-kindergarten to eighth grade from one to two ounces and ninth to 12th grades from two to three ounces.

It is possible that some schools will have to wait for additional ingredients before they can adhere to these changes. The guidelines about the grain products being whole wheat have not changed. The larger portions will continue to be the healthier option of whole grain products, according to an email from Mary Grimm-Howard, school system food service supervisor.

These changes are to take effect by Wednesday.

As far as meats are concerned, the changes will be minimal. All actual meat items will continue to be a 2 ounce portion; however, cheese may not be counted as a protein component, Grimm-Howard explained.

“I am hoping that these changes that USDA has allowed will offer a better dining experience,” she said.

The students’ reaction upon hearing about the changes was simple.

“Thank God,” Matherne said.

“I think it’s good because most of it they’re giving you is vegetables and they’re making you take a fruit or a vegetable. Most of the kids are just throwing them away so it’s just wasting food,” Deshotel said.

Matherne agreed. “I don’t like how you have to take three things because if they don’t eat it you’re wasting food.”

Each student must take a grain, a fruit or vegetable and a helping of the main course. Most students don’t eat the vegetable or fruit, Matherne and Deshotel explained.

“I don’t think the protein was the problem. It was more just the grains,” Deshotel said of this year’s lunch changes.

“They’d give you a hamburger, and the patty would be hanging off the bun,” Matherne said, describing the buns as slightly larger than a golf ball.

Deshotel said, “It’s good that they’re bringing back the grains because a lot of kids weren’t really eating. It’ll be more of what they’ll eat, I guess.”

What would the students change if they had power over lunch?

“More vegetables because they always have the same thing every day … the fruits they don’t have a variety of (either). It’s always peaches or that mix,” Deshotel said.

Matherne was more focused on dessert.

“I wish there was more pie,” Matherne said. “Blueberry pie. Any kind of pie is fine. As long as it’s pie. I never had pumpkin pie though.”

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