The National School Lunch Program has required fruit and vegetables be served on a daily basis to children for over 20 years.
Previously, students could refuse the produce and have a meal still be considered reimbursable; however, with the new federal requirement a reimbursed school meal must include a fruit or vegetable.
Dianne Feasley is the associated director and registered dietitian at Campus Dining and she helped further explain the new requirement for school districts.
“The new requirement is related to the variety of vegetables that must be offered throughout the week,” Feasley explained. “There is also an option called ‘offered versus served.’ This requires students to select three of the five meal components for a meal to count as a reimbursable meal.”
“The five meal components include milk, protein, grain, fruit and vegetables,” Feasley said.
“With the new requirement in place, a wider variety of fruits and vegetables will be offered to students. Those who wish to make their meal reimbursable must include a fruit or vegetable in their school meals,” she added.
With the new requirement for school districts in place, price of produce comes to mind and its effect on school meal prices.
“Produce prices vary according to season and are highly influenced by weather in the growing regions. Right now Campus Dining is not experiencing any extreme pricing issues [in terms of produce],” Feasley said.
Although Campus Dining cannot require students to eat fruit or vegetables with every meal like school districts, they do offer a wide range of options for students to choose from.
“Campus Dining is committed to providing a variety of foods including selections of fruits and vegetables,” Feasley said. “In residential dining centers we offer two steamed vegetables at lunch and dinner, plus a salad bar daily.”
Campus Dining also offers stir fry with fresh vegetable choices at the Mongolian Grill at Marketplace at Linkins Center, and an assortment of fresh fruit is available throughout the day, she said.
Feasely said all fruits and vegetables offer important nutrients necessary for the human body.
“[They] especially provide vitamin A, C, folate and dietary fiber. Plus fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals [which] may help protect us against some forms of cancer, heart disease and other chronic health conditions,” Feasley said.
She recommends you eat five-to-nine servings of fruit or vegetables each day.
Feasley said she believes the key to getting the necessary amounts of fruits and especially vegetables is to find stealthy ways to include them in your diet such as topping a pizza or sandwich with them. Or find a dip you enjoy with vegetables such as hummus or dressing.
Her top fruit picks include any berries, apples and citrus for maximum benefits.
“Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis is one of the surest ways to promote [good] health,” she added.
For more information on healthy eating or the government mandate contact Campus Dining at (309) 438-8419.