What's on your student's lunch tray this year?

School lunch program (KHGI)

There's no guarantee the students are eating a healthy meal, but the federal government is trying to ensure schools across the country, including here in Nebraska are serving well balanced meals.

"We have several requirements we're required to go by," said Kearney Public Schools food service director, Kate Murphy.

Those detailed guidelines are published in the 2012 United States Department of Agriculture federal register.

"A lot of people think that Michelle Obama made the school guidelines, well it was actually the USDA and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans that drives what the school meal pattern is," said Grand Island Public Schools director of child nutrition, Kris Spellman.

According to the USDA standards, that's a meal that falls within a specific calorie guide line based on age, with reduced sodium and zero trans fat. Each day students will see milk, meat, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

"With vegetables there's sub groups they require us to offer every week," said Murphy. "So, there has to be like leafy greens offered once a week, red orange once a week, legumes once a week, a bean those sorts of things."

"Most of our items are whole grain," said Spellman. "So, our pizza is whole grain, chicken nugget breading is whole grain and so it's not as unhealthy as what maybe some people think."

Speaking of pizza, there's a new one coming students' way in Grand Island.

"We did some testing with some pizza items last spring and I'm happy to say that one of the grade levels really liked the new item," said Spellman. "So, we're going to be introducing that pizza this year. So, kids should see a little difference in their pizza."

"We are constantly looking for new items on the menu this year," said Murphy. "We started some new Asian items last year that the kids were really popular at all grade levels so we'll continue doing those."

Some of the menu requirements were put into place immediately following the federal register, while the USDA gave schools a couple years to incorporate whole grains and a decade to adjust their sodium levels.

According to Murphy, there's federal requirements on meal pricing as well.

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