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Changes in menus at BEA

By Staff | Sep 2, 2012

Blue Earth Area students should brace themselves for change because school lunches are going to be much different this year.
Christine Purvis, head cook at the Blue Earth school, has worked in the kitchen for 10 years and is preparing for the most changes she’s ever seen.
Purvis has been trying to plan the lunch menus for the school year and prepare the kitchen staff for all of the changes being mandated by USDA.
“I have had to do more training with my staff than ever before,”?she says.
The biggest changes that students and parents will notice are less bread, more fruits and vegetables and raised lunch prices.
“The last thing I want parents to think is that the kids are getting less food even though the prices have gone up,”?Purvis says.
The price increase is not the district’s choice but something that has to be done.
“This change in cost is to subsidize the money we get for the lunch program,”?she says. “Basically to balance the free or reduced lunch program with the costs of what it’s going to take to prepare these meals.”
The cost of lunch this year will be $2 for K-5, $2.25 for grades 6-12 and students will now have to pay extra if they want a second helping of the entree.
As part of the change, all students K-8 must take a minimum of a half cup of fruit in order to get through the lunch line, while grades 9-12 are required to take one cup of fruit.
Adding more fruits and vegetables to the menu means more expense, but students can come back and get as many fruits and vegetables as they’d like.
As more produce is added to the menu, bread grains are being taken away.
“We used to offer bread and peanut butter as another meal option,”?Purvis says. “This year we won’t have that at all. I?know the kids will really miss that.”
The USDA now has a maximum amount of bread grains that can be served; nine ounces a week for K-5, 10 ounces a week for grades 6-8 and 12 ounces a week for grades 9-12.
This means smaller sandwiches, no more pasta salads and no bread and butter as a side.
USDA has also set regulations regarding calorie intake which is one change that has Purvis a little concerned.
“It is important to make sure kids are eating healthier,”?she says. “But, I’m worried about restricting calories, not all of these students are at the same activity level.”
Students that are involved in sports and after school activities may not be getting enough calories at lunch to get them through practice later that day.
“Now I wonder if we will have to offer an after school snack program or add a refrigerated snack machines for these students,”?she says.
However, the changes have to be made and as these new USDA?regulations are put into action Purvis suspects they will be tweaked as time goes on.
“As they receive feedback, some of these regulations will lighten up or they’ll find things that work better,”?she says.
As school starts this year, Purvis encourages parents to prepare their children for some of the changes in the lunch line.
“If they see these healthy foods at home, its going to look a lot less strange on their tray at school,” she says.
Despite all the changes, Purvis is still trying to incorporate some of the menu favorites from past school years.
“We will have Taco Tuesdays every week and Fun Fridays which will include some of the more popular entrees,” Purvis says.
The head cook views these changes as a positive thing for students. They will learn how to eat proper portions of each food group and how to make healthy food choices.
“Change is difficult for all of us,”?she says. “But, I hope I’ve made a menu that is still attractive to the students.”
The menus for the school year which are now divided into three age groups can be found online at the BEA?school website.