As most of you already know, on December 13, 2010, President Obama signed into Public Law (111-296), the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. This legislation marked the most comprehensive changes to the school nutrition in over 15 years. The changes to the current meal pattern becomes effective July 1, 2012, the beginning of the school year 2012-2013.

According to information provided on the USDA’s Nutrition Standards for School Meals portion of their website, the timing of this legislation and the USDA’s standards are critically needed to help combat the epidemic of childhood obesity as well as the urgent problem of childhood hunger. Nearly 1 in 3 children are at risk for preventable diseases like diabetes and heart disease due to overweight and obesity. If left unaddressed, health experts tell us that our current generation of children may well have a shorter lifespan than their parents. Additionally, during 2010 over 17 million households in the United States, representing over 32 million adults and over 16 million children, struggled to put enough food on the table. For many of these children, a school meal is the only nutritious source of food they can count on.

Last week I talked to Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation Food and Nutrition Director, Linda Eidson. I asked her what the EVSC was already doing to ensure more quality, healthy lunches for the children attending their schools. She tells me that EVSC meals already exceed the current USDA nutritional guidelines, and that they are constantly looking for the best products to meet student likes and needs.

For example

1. All milk offered, is fat-free or low fat.

2. Our bread and buns are 100 % whole grain. We use whole grain pasta and brown rice. More products are continually added that contain at least 51% whole grains (such as pizza crust.)

3. For the past few years, a major goal of ours has been to increase the quantity and variety of fruits and vegetables with an emphasis on fresh. Canned fruit is canned in juice.

4. We already are emphasizing many of the “subgroups” of vegetables that are required in the new USDA guidelines. For example, to meet the dark green requirement we add fresh spinach to the lettuce salads and also serve steamed spinach. Broccoli, both steamed and fresh in veggie cups, are a regular menu item. We include many veggies from the dark orange/red group in the form of carrots, tomatoes, red peppers and sweet potatoes. This year black beans have been offered in our new Fiesta Salad and in black bean and corn salsa.

5. We have been decreasing the amount of “fried” products served over the past several years, and next year there will be no deep fryers used in our corporation. Food is prepared in convection ovens, combo-ovens and steamers.

6. Turkey, chicken and leaner beef products are emphasized.

7. Breakfast participation has increased over the years, and many schools are allowing students to eat in the classroom.

8. We are very lucky to have a great partnership with the Welborn Baptist Foundation and a School Community Council that constantly provides students with health and wellness information and programs.

If you have any specific questions about the food and nutrition of your EVSC student contact:

Linda Eidson, RD, SNS
Office of Food & Nutrition
Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation
951 Walnut Street
Evansville, IN 47713
Phone: (812) 435-0523