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RCS District Office
P.O. Box 100
15 Mountain Road
Ravena, NY 12143
(518) 756-5200
Robert K. Libby,
Superintendent

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Fresh Nutrition Standards Serve Up Change in the Lunch Line

When they return to school this year, students may notice a change on their lunch trays. New federal nutrition standards have been implemented, which require schools to meet daily and weekly serving requirements of grains, fruits and vegetables, meat or meat alternatives and milk.

The new standards, introduced as one of five major components of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, make fruits and vegetables the focus and main portion of each school meal. Schools must offer three categories of vegetables weekly (leafy green, orange/red, legumes and beans), limit starchy vegetables such as corn and potatoes, serve only fat-free and low-fat milk varieties and offer only whole-grain-rich breads, pasta and rice.

New calorie limits are also in place, based on grade level. Beginning this school year, school lunches cannot exceed 650 calories for students in grades K-5, 700 calories for grades 6-8, and 850 calories for high school students.

The changes are the first in 15 years to the $11 billion school lunch program that serves about 32 million students around the U.S.

Why the change? In light of the rise of childhood obesity nationwide, the role of school lunches is no longer to simply feed undernourished children (which was the basis for starting the federal school lunch program more than 60 years ago), but to educate students about making healthy food choices.

All students purchasing lunch will be required to take a minimum of three food components, one of which must be either a fruit or a vegetable in order for their lunch to be reimbursable.

“RCS has long been committed to providing nutritious and delicious meals for our students, and to helping to teach them the critical role nutrition plays in fueling their minds and bodies,” said Porter. “There will be challenges in introducing these standards, but they have the potential to serve as strong tools and guidance for realizing those goals.”

The changes slated to take effect in September are just the first steps in a three-year plan to phase-in the new standards. Changes to breakfast and snacks served in school will happen over the next two years.

A 10-cent increase in the price of school lunch has been approved by the Board of Education, to meet higher costs associated with new meal standards and comply with another mandate of the federal Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, which requires school districts to charge a minimum price for meals that is more in line with the federal and state reimbursement for free and reduced-meals. The cost of elementary lunch will increase to $2.10 at the elementary school; middle and high school lunches will increase to $2.35.

Children from households that meet federal income guidelines are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Reduced-priced meals cost each eligible student $0.25 for breakfast and $0.25 for lunch. If paying for school meals is a challenge for your family, the district encourages you to review the free and reduced-price meal information here and fill out the application.