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New school year means new healthier changes for lunch

LA CROSSE COUNTY, Wis. -- In just a few weeks, kids will head back to class, but with a new school year comes some changes to school lunches.

This latest round was approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture this past January.

Both schools and parents agree these changes look great on paper, but how will it translate?

"It's really what's right for kids," said Michael Gasper, nutrition services supervisor for the Holmen School District. "Trying to help our kids eat well, to learn to eat well [and] living a healthier lifestyle."

The Holmen School District is one of many that will follow new changes from the USDA this year.

The changes include providing a wider variety of vegetables, beans and legumes and making sure half of the grains available are whole grains. Schools will also have to serve meals that stay within an age-specific calorie range. Another big change this year is students must choose at least a half cup of fruit or vegetables as part of their lunch.

While these new changes sound good on paper, the chair of the district's parent committee, Dawn Comeau, said getting kids to eat what they're told may be a challenge."


When you're that young, it's hard to adopt the whole vegetable thing, and now that we're changing the school lunches to be more fruits, more vegetables, I'm a little concerned that they're going to get less nutrition because they're not going to eat as much,' said Comeau. "So they're going to be more tired in school hence affect their education and learning."

But Gasper says they've had some success in the district.

"We have done things here such as serving our kids Brussels sprouts, roasted cabbage, asparagus, parsnips, a lot of different vegetables that you wouldn't normally see in a school district, and a lot of kids have eaten them," said Gasper.

Gasper said these changes aren't drastic for Holmen, but some may come at a cost.

"On the surface of it, you would think it would," said Gasper. "I guess we won't know for sure until we're into the school year when we know what the costs are."

Comeau, worries any extra costs will be passed onto families, costs she said not every family can afford.

"I can't go out for lunch for two dollars a day," said Comeau. "I mean that's impossible, so absolutely the prices they can go up a little, but you're now going to be making it more difficult with the economics that are happening within the country, to be able to deal with the rising costs of school lunches."

The USDA is projecting an increase in lunch prices between 27 and 29 cents.

The district also has free and reduced lunch programs available to help families in need.

As an incentive, schools receive a 6-cent-per meal reimbursement from the government for following the requirements.

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