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Changes on the table for healthier school lunch guidelines

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ASHWAUBENON - Some whole grains could soon be yanked from the lunch line at your child's school.

Federal healthier meal standards would stay mostly intact, but a spending bill making its way through Congress eases guidelines that require more whole grains in school foods.

At Parkview Middle School in Ashwaubenon, the cafeteria serves up 100% whole grain foods daily.

"That would include crust on pizza, buns for hamburgers that would include the pasta in our chili," said Betsy Farah, Ashwaubenon Schools Food Service Director.

Farah says it's not easy fulfilling federal nutritional guidelines.
Standards require all grain products to be mostly whole grain.
Farah says finding and paying for the products is one thing, and another challenge is getting students to eat the meals.

"Our participation numbers have been declining due to some of the quality of the meals," Farah said.

A federal spending bill would allow schools that can show they've had a hard time finding and affording acceptable whole grain products to be exempted from current rules. Instead only half of their grain products must be mostly whole grain.

Ashwaubenon's Food Service Director says if the district is approved for the exemption, it would allow for more flexibility.

"It will allow us to be creative in our menu planning and our procurement measures and it will also allow us to educate students," Farah said.

Nutritionists FOX 11 spoke with say changing the standards will impact a child's nutritional intake.

"That child is not going to get as many vitamins, they will not get as much fiber, in their diet and the chances of that happening are going to be much more put on the parents to do that at home," said Debbie Guenterberg, Prevea Health Registered Dietician.

"It won't put us backwards at all. It's only going to enhance us," Farah said.

Green Bay's Public School District says few if any changes will be made at its schools.

"We have reformulated all of our bakery goods to be 100% whole grain, and kids seem to like it and also the other products we've been bringing in, we've been able to work with our distributor on bringing products in," said Kathy Walker, Green Bay Public School District Food Service Director.

Walker says the district won't apply for an exemption.

"It's a little easier for us because we have such high volume. We're serving over 16,500 meals per day," Walker said.

The spending bill also would put off rules when it comes to lowering sodium levels in food.

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