Last Updated: Apr 27th, 2015 - 11:04:56

Colonial Heights High adds food options
By Blake Belden, staff writer
Aug 29, 2014, 12:13

COLONIAL HEIGHTS — With Colonial Heights schools preparing to begin next week and federal mandates creating more stringent nutritional regulations in public schools, students will be given several new healthy, alternative meal options including a fresh meal bistro at the high school and goat pizza at the middle school.

President Barack Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act in December of 2010, legislation that aims to promote healthier menus in the nation’s school systems and required the United States Department of Agriculture to issue new “Smart Snacks in School” nutrition standards that continue to change each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The legislation is effective through September 2015.

This year, the new standards designed by the USDA have lowered the limits on sodium, calories and sugar in snacks and entrees offered as competitive food options.

Competitive foods are any food or drink items that are sold on school property outside of the federal reimbursable school meals program during the official school day.

Recently amended for this upcoming school year, competitive meal options now must contain less than 35 percent total weight in sugar, less than 200 mg of sodium in snacks and 480 mg of sodium in entrees and contain less than 200 calories in snacks and 350 calories in entrees.

Of these calories, there must be less than 35 percent calories from fat, 10 percent of calories from saturated fat and no trans fats.

To put this in perspective, a one ounce bag of Lay’s Classic Potato Chips has 170 mg of sodium and 160 calories, however it contains more than 56 percent calories from fat.

According to the American Diabetes Association, the average American consumes about 3,400 mg of sodium per day, and the recommended intake is less than 2,300 mg per day. Lower sodium intake lowers blood pressure and risk for heart attack or stroke.

Beginning next week, high school students will have the opportunity to buy competitive food options from the new Market Fresh Bistro, a fresh, healthier, in-school food service, according to Craig Linn, Colonial Heights district manager of food services from Aramark.

“This is a strictly fresh ingredient program that I started up in Pennsylvania. It’s been very successful up there, and this will be the first school district outside of the state to actually get this program,” Linn said.

The bistro will offer an extensive variety of unique food choices with a primary focus on fresh, healthy meals hand cooked by a chef.

“Everything is from scratch. Chicken tenders, which used to be frozen in a box, now they’re going to come fresh. They’re going to be cooked. So we’re going to have a designated cook specifically for the bistro,” Linn said.

The online menu for the Market Fresh Bistro implemented at Tohickon Middle School in Pennsylvania includes meals such as baked ziti with a side of sauerkraut and balsamic roasted vegetables, homemade whole wheat French toast with sausage and roasted red potatoes and baked chipotle orange chicken with southwest corn quinoa salad. The menu listed for one month rarely consists of repeat meal options.

Every Tuesday, the Market Fresh Bistro will also offer the option for a hand-carved deli sandwich with meats such as roast turkey or brisket in addition to the available daily entrees, Linn said.

Because the high school will be using more quality ingredients, the price will be a little higher, but Linn believes that students will take advantage of the second-tier $3 per meal option because of the healthy and unique meals offered.

Those students who are eligible for free lunches will not be negatively impacted by this change, but instead will still have the option of a free lunch or instead a $0.40 second tier meal.

Linn said he hopes these new options will draw in a greater source of revenue for the schools.

“We’re hoping to move 60 percent of our current meals from the regular priced meal to the premium priced meal. Overall, we’re hoping to see an $11,000 improvement in return through the year as a result of these programs,” Linn said.

In addition to the current competitive food brands of Green Street Deli and The Tortilla, and the installation of the Market Fresh Bistro, Linn said that Aramark hopes to add Corner Crust and the Custom Brothers Grill as options as the year goes on.

Colonial Heights High School is not the only school seeing some changes this year.

After a noticeable amount of demand, Colonial Heights Middle School will now be serving fresh goat pizza and focusing more on faster and more efficient cafeteria line services, Linn said.

The elementary schools are not really impacted by the new policies regarding competitive food nutritional standards.

In June, the Colonial Heights School Board voted to increase the cost of paid lunches offered as part of the National School Lunch Program by 10 cents to comply with federal mandates. Therefore, students who are not eligible for free lunch through the federal meals program will face a new cost of $2.35 per meal, up from $2.25 per meal, according to Troy Hedblom, assistant superintendent of business services.

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