Leaner, greener school lunches served under new federal standards are getting mixed grades from students piling more carrots, more apples and fewer fatty foods on their trays.
"Now they're kind of forcing all the students to get the vegetables and fruit with their lunch, and they took out chicken nuggets this year, which I'm not too happy about," said Chris Cimino, a senior at Mohonasen High School in upstate New York.
Lunch lines at schools across the country cut through the garden now, under new U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition standards. Mohonasen students had to choose something from the lunch line's cornucopia of apples, bananas, fresh spinach and grape tomatoes, under the standards. Calorie counts are capped, too.
Most students seemed to accept the new lunch rules, reactions in line with what federal officials say they're hearing elsewhere. Still, some active teens complain the meals are too skimpy. And while you can give a kid a whole-wheat pita, you can't make him like it.
"I was just trying to eat it so I wouldn't be hungry later on," Marecas Wilson said of his pita sandwich served this week at Eastside Elementary in Clinton, Miss.
Though the fifth-grader judged his pita "nasty," he conceded: "The plum was very good."
Kim Gagnon, Mohonasen food service director, said while students generally have been receptive to the fruits and vegetables, "we have noticed that kids are throwing it out or giving it to friends, leaving it on counters, so we haven't quite gotten there yet."
The guidelines approved by the USDA earlier this year set limits on calories and salt and phase in whole grains. Schools must offer at least one vegetable or fruit per meal. They still can serve chocolate milk, but it has to be nonfat.
In Clinton, Miss., the elementary students served flatbread roast beef sandwiches with grated cheese ate most of the meat but left large chunks of whole-wheat pita. Most plums were gnawed to the pits, and salads were half eaten.
"I liked the meat but not this," fifth-grader Kenmari Williams said, pointing to his pita. "Every time you eat it, you get something white on your hands."
One 6-foot-5-inch, 210-pound football player who, based on his size, needs more than 4,700 calories daily to maintain his weight, said lunches topping out at 850 calories aren't enough.
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