There were no riots in the lunch line at Baker Central School. Not one kid that I interviewed said they were upset about fresh fruit and vegetables being a mandatory addition to their lunch trays. I was surprised at the casual acceptance among these 5th graders after reading a story in the New York Times about kids boycotting the lunches that met the new nutrition standard in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. At Baker Central School in Fort Morgan, Colorado the transition seems to be almost dreamy.
According to Sheri Hulkovich, kitchen manager, it only took the students a month to transition to the new standards. She mentioned that every so often she must remind a student to return and grab a few more carrot sticks to meet the ¾ cup serving guideline. Today grapes were served in darling ½ cup sized plastic cups. The girls at my table thought they won the lottery when they were allowed to get seconds on grapes. That made my day.
As a LiveWell Mom, I wanted to participate in National TakeYour Parents to Lunch Day and check out how the new National School Lunch Program standards were being implemented. I don’t have a child old enough for full-day school yet, so I had to borrow one. (Thanks, Autumn!) I was surprised when the line for school lunch trailed down the hallway. All but a few students were waiting to buy their calories from the school. Thankfully, these calories are now required to pack a better nutritional punch. The menu featured:
- Chicken and Cheese Quesadilla on a Whole Wheat Tortilla
- Refried Beans
- Celery Sticks
- Red Grapes
- Fat-Free Chocolate Milk (“White” milk was offered, but clearly not the favorite)
I helped my preschooler and toddler to their seats, trays carefully in hand, for them to officially take part in what 31 million children around the country do Monday through Friday. The chocolate milk was guzzled first, quickly followed by the grapes and celery. My preschooler and baby girl fought over who got to eat the corn. However, I had to prod a bit to get them to eat the refried beans and quesadilla. I determined the cause when I took a bite. A little cumin would have been much appreciated.
Before running out the door for some recess, the students at my table were quick to tell me their favorite fruits and vegetables served at school. They told me about the fresh plums and jicama – new produce that some had never tried before. It seems that fruits and vegetables don’t need a smart media campaign for acceptance here. The new standards create an environment where eating better is socially reinforced. Everyone is eating grapes, because, well, everyone has to take a serving of grapes. And it always helps to have a few friends around to make the switch seem like the new normal. I left feeling optimistic and cool as a ¾ cup serving of cucumbers.