MCPS implemented health initiatives for school lunch
The Blair cafeteria revised its lunch menu this school year in response to a Maryland health mandate passed this summer and concluded MCPS's gradual menu changes over the past six years, according to cafeteria manager Maddalena Bianchini.
The Food and Nutrition Services of MCPS eliminated the á la carte line, which allowed students to buy an unlimited number of individual items such as chicken nuggets and French fries. Bianchini said that with á la carte, students ate individual items rather than whole meals. "When we had á la carte, children bought whatever sandwiches were on the á la carte," she said.
With the new changes, the cafeteria now serves roughly 700 whole meals per day as opposed to the 300 meals last year, according to Bianchini. In the lunch lines, staff members encourage students to eat balanced meals by requiring them to pick three sides, which usually include fruit and vegetables.
Junior Josh Griner is frustrated by the elimination of the á la carte line and the requirement that students buy sides. The cafeteria offers healthy food, but "that doesn't mean you're going to eat it," said Griner. Although he said that he started eating the more nutritious options, he observed that many of his friends merely threw them away.
MCPS began revising recipes six years ago by making fat-free hamburgers and cutting back on cheese, according to Bianchini. Over the years, MCPS reduced the fat and salt contents in other items and eliminated unhealthy drinks, including whole milk and Hawaiian Punch, according to Bianchini.
Calories from fat in school lunches must be equal to or less than 30% of the total meal calories, according to Sandra Shrout, supervisor of the Food and Nutrition Services of MCPS. Last year, the MCPS Board of Education adopted guidelines stating that food items on the á la carte line could have no more than 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat and 15 grams of sugar per serving, said Shrout. Dietary restrictions for school meals are based on United States Department of Agriculture requirements, according to Shrout.
More nutritious options, such as rice and beans and fajitas, have been added to the menu. The cafeteria also sells French fries only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. In addition, the cafeteria staff offers a salad bar and baby carrots almost every day, according to Bianchini. "Our salad bar is very successful," said Bianchini. The bar serves salads with turkey and tuna in low-fat mayonnaise.
Workers hope students will choose to eat the healthier options. "Of course we can't force anything," said Bianchini, but "chances are they will eat at least some fruits and vegetables."
Griner, who buys lunch every day, recognized one of the benefits of the health initiatives. "They just want us to live healthier lives when we leave school," he said.
Freshman Brittany Hudgins believes that the cafeteria has responsibility for students' diets but complained that the food remains fatty. "They need to stop putting so much grease in it," she said.
Senior Matt Felperin said that the health measures are "a good idea" but he is not happy with their implementation. He said that students who want to buy fries and chicken nuggets should be able to buy them. "They should just have [the á la carte line]," he said.
Anna Coughlan. Anna is a CAP junior who can't believe she's an upperclassman already. She likes to run Blair cross-country and track, do yoga, play soccer, and chill with fun-loving people. Anna is a big movie fan and loves the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Star … More »