The Ottumwa Courier

Southeast Iowa

April 12, 2012

School meals adhere to growing regulations

OSKALOOSA — Proper nutrition, variety and safety of the food served are top priorities in the Oskaloosa School District.

Superintendent Russ Reiter said the district follows extensive rules set by both the state and federal government when it comes to the food they serve. He noted that the guidelines and regulations set by the USDA and the state are “rigorous.”

Reiter said these regulations change fairly frequently and it’s up to the school district to adapt. He cited the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act, which was passed in 2010.

“We’re constantly being monitored in regards to the food that we prepare, that we serve and we have to be held accountable for all that,” Reiter said.

In his time with the Oskaloosa School District and during previous employment in the education field, Reiter said he’s seen the regulation of school food grow.

The school district is also required to serve certain amounts of food in each meal, Reiter said.

“We can’t necessarily give extras to students because, well, we have a high school student who’s 6’2”, 230 pounds versus a freshman kid,” said Reiter.

Offering a variety of foods is also important in forming the school meal menus, Reiter said. He sad al a carte lines are available at both the middle and high schools for students, as well.

Things as specific as how students get protein and carbohydrates are also considered closely during the menu-making process, Reiter said.

“My main goal is to provide a quality lunch so that kids are wanting to eat a school lunch versus restricting variety so that we’re forced to serve things that kids don’t want to eat,” said Reiter.

Julie Miller, Director of Food Service for Oskaloosa Schools, said the USDA and National School Lunch program, and Department of Education guide what the school district can offer on their menus.

Miller said she is currently working on adhering the schools menus to new regulations for next school year. This means rewriting the menus for the elementary, middle and high schools, she said.

Next year, calorie counts, saturated fat and sodium and other food elements will be regulated, as well, said Miller. This coming year, the quality of the food served to the students will also be a focus, Miller said.

Miller noted that food safety is an “extremely high” priority at the Oskaloosa School District.

“You have one child get sick and you could have a whole outbreak depending on how things are handled or not handled,” said Miller. “So, we are very concerned about food safety. We regulate our temperatures and our staff is very good about keeping their hands clean and (wearing) their hair nets.”

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