EL PASO, Texas - This school year brings some changes to the food children eat in the cafeteria after Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue signed a proclamation to give schools more flexibility in nutrition requirements.
Purdue said The signed proclamation was the start of retiring local control of guidelines on whole grains, sodium and milk.
The move also halted changes initially introduced by former First Lady Michelle Obama.
The USDA will no longer require that cafeterias serve strictly whole grains, sodium reductions to meals implemented by the Obama Administration are on hold for at least the next three years and 1% flavored milk will now be served.
Purdue claimed the decision came after “years of feedback from students, schools and food service experts about the challenges they are facing in meeting the final regulations for school meals.”
The USDA reported school food requirements cost school districts and states an additional $1.22 billion in Fiscal Year 2015.
Flor Esnayra, a Child Nutrition Specialist for the Ysleta Independent School District, said there won’t be a major impact on lunch trays.
Esnayra said the district will continue serving healthful meals to its students, but added it takes research to keep up with what children like to eat.
“We educate our cafeteria manager about new culinary trends, how to use other spices instead of sodium to give our meals more taste. It’s constant research,” Esnayra said.
One goal for YISD is to expose children to fruits, vegetables and other foods that kids don’t typically eat.
“Right now we’re promoting colors on the plate,” Esnayra said, referring to fruits and vegetables.
The district conducts taste testing with students, teachers and principals during lunch time to find out if the food “tastes good,” said Esnayra.
The USDA oversees the National School Lunch Program that feeds millions of kids everyday.
In 2016, 30.4 million children participated in the NSLP.
The NSLP is a federally assisted meal program that operates in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions.