School District 65 has been serving healthier food for lunch and breakfasts, and the bar is being quickly raised. School Districts became required, as of July 1, to comply with new regulations adopted under the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
Jordan Ryan, coordinator of food and nutrition services at School District 65, said in a memorandum to the School Board that the regulations include "many wonderful improvements to the nutrition standards of school lunches" including increased servings of fruits and vegetables, increased servings of whole grain-rich grains, and caps on the total amount of meat/meat alternate and grains that are served in a week. Mr. Ryan also said there is "a daily cap on the amount of calories and sodium that can be present in a reimbursable meal."
Mr. Ryan said many of the requirements of the final regulations have already been implemented in the District, but some changes will need to be made in future years to comply with the new sodium, whole grain-rich and breakfast standards that are phased in at later dates.
In the 2011-12 School Year, District 65 served 494,749 lunches, 68% under the free lunch program, 8% under the reduced-fee lunch program and 24% paid. The District received $1.25 million in state and federal grants to fund the free and reduced-fee lunches.
Last year, District 65 served 75,040 breakfasts, 88% of which were under the free lunch program, and 7% under the reduced-fee lunch program.
Board member Richard Rykhus said he thought the District had made substantial progress in this area. "We have to make sure kids have fuel in their bodies to enable them to learn," he said, adding, "There’s some really healthy alternatives here and I’m really thrilled with the changes that have been made."
Wellness Policy Update
Mary Larson, co-chair of the District 65 Wellness Council, gave the School Board an update on the progress made in achieving the Wellness Council Committee’s Goals for 2011-12.
She said an Ad Hoc Committee was established to update the District’s Wellness Policy that was adopted in 2006-07. The updated policy, which was approved by the Board in March 2012, adds a section addressing emotional wellness, it improves the ala carte nutrition standards, and it provides an updated list of healthful options for school functions. Under the updated policy, parents are no longer just "encouraged" but they are "required" to use the guidelines established by the USDA when they bring food to school, including for school functions.
Goal two of the updated policy was to promote healthier eating by purchasing 12 fruit and vegetable carts for 12 schools. That was done, and during the second half of the school year students at the 12 schools were able to choose two of five different fruit and vegetable offerings from the carts each day. The project was deemed a success, with the percentage of fresh oranges and apples selected increasing by 497%.
A third goal was to establish a meaningful partnership between District 65 and the Evanston Health Department. Ms. Larson said the District partnered with EHD in many ways, including the creation of a Let’s Move video featuring District 65 students, the planning of school gardens, and the implementation of school-based dental clinics. Ms. Larson said 784 students received in-school dental services at nine District 65 schools during the school year.