Planning Ahead for the Future of School Food

September 05, 2013

Schools can make gradual changes now to plan for future school food regulations.

Over the past few years, major changes have been made to school food service, most notably those required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Next year, regulations for 2014-2015 will continue to ensure healthy school food options, even beyond lunch. One regulation will require fruit to be served with school breakfast. Another key regulation, the USDA’s “Smart Snacks in Schools” policy, will place nutrition standards on competitive foods such as a la carte cafeteria items and snacks sold in vending machines and school stores.

Schools are rising to the challenges of 2013-14 when it comes to serving healthier school food, but they can also continue looking to the future. HSC spoke with Lorelei DiSogra, Vice President of Nutrition and Health for the United Fresh Produce Association, who recommends that schools, the produce industry and vending companies start thinking now about how to integrate additional fruit or vegetables. Schools should, for example, consider what fruits and vegetables they have the capacity to serve — and how. If students eat school breakfast at their desks, schools will need to find ways to serve fruit that is convenient and easy-to-eat in class. DiSogra predicts that fresh-cut, bagged items such as apples will be popular vending and breakfast items, as well as easy-to-eat fruits such as bananas.

“We really believe that’s going to be another huge opportunity,” DiSogra says. “It’s going to take a lot of creativity for schools to increase access and availability of fresh fruits and vegetables.”

For an easy and successful transition to meeting new regulations in 2014-15, DiSogra says that schools can make ongoing, incremental changes. As gradual changes are made, students will be more readily accepting of new healthy options.

This gradual approach has worked well in the past, DiSogra says: “We’ve got school food service directors who are real leaders… Many school food service directors were proactive and began making changes right away. Those early adopters were the most successful.”

Read more in HSC’s School Food blog series: