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This isn't your dad's school lunch, with mystery meat and potatoes.
It isn't even your older sister's lunch of Caesar salad and iced tea.
This year's school lunches have more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, while setting limits on the amount of grain, protein and calories. There's also less fat and sodium.
As just one example, take a look at a typical lunch in Ken-Ton: turkey cubes in gravy over pasta with green beans, applesauce and milk. And that is what is going to be served in school cafeterias here and across the country as they implement new federal nutritional standards for healthy meals for school children.
Most districts knew the stricter requirements were coming and have been preparing, but the final rules in New York did not come until June, food service directors said.
That left the "lunch ladies" scrambling over the summer to devise menus that meet the standards and still look like the food children are used to eating.
Just last year, there were minimum amounts of bread and meat that had to be included in lunches.
"Now we have a maximum," said Hamburg Food Service Director Linda Muldoon. "The little kids can't have more than 10 ounces of protein each week. Big kids can't have a lot of bread each day."
Members of the Erie County School Nutrition Association, made up of food service directors, got together over the summer and worked in teams to devise "cycle menus" - a set of five weekly menus that have the requisite food variety and calories per day and for each week.
"A lot of us are on the same cycle, just so we can be assured that all our components are met," said Barbara Albi, food service director at Depew Schools and president of the county association.
Of the five parts of the meal - fruits, vegetables, meat/meat alternatives, grains and milk - students must take at least three for the meal to be reimbursed. New standards this year require one of the three components to be a fruit or a vegetable.
That means students won't get away with selecting chicken nuggets, brown rice and milk for a meal - they'll have to take the sliced carrots or chilled fruit cup, too.
Many schools are increasing prices this year, in part because the healthier food costs more.
The government also is requiring districts to gradually raise the prices of lunches to mirror the amount they receive for free lunches. This year, the state and federal reimbursement is $2.91 per meal. Once districts receive certification they are serving the correct meals, they will receive another 6 cents per meal reimbursement.
The price of a paid lunch won't be an issue in Buffalo public schools this year. Every student in city schools will receive a free lunch this year, as part of the Community Eligibility Option for schools in low-income areas. About 83 percent of the 25,000 Buffalo students getting lunch last year got it for free.
Bridget O'Brien Wood, director of the food service in Buffalo city schools, believes it will cost about 26 cents more per meal to provide the more-nutritious food. The cost of fruit and vegetables, particularly when they are out of season, can be hefty. And this year, schools looking forward to the fall apple harvest are finding reduced numbers of apples because of the spring weather.
"The focus and the priority is getting children to consume more fruits and vegetables and legumes, and less bread," she said.
But the requirements also are forcing Buffalo to discontinue some favorite items, such as oven roasted chicken. That's because the different parts of the chicken have different levels of protein, and would put some children over the daily maximum requirements.
"It was too hard to separate the breast meat from the drumstick," she said.
In Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda schools, a favorite meal was French toast sticks, but instead of four sticks per serving there could only be two this year. It was cut from the menu.
Students will see the color-coded "My Plate" posted in cafeterias to help them learn about portion sizes and healthy choices. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's "My Plate" replaces the food pyramid.
It's not just protein counts that are keeping school chefs hopping. They have to rethink their colors and their vegetables, too.
In school cafeterias this year, green beans are not considered green vegetables.
Each week, vegetable offerings must include a servings from five different groups. They include dark green veggies such as broccoli, collard greens and spinach, and red/orange vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.
Menus also must include legumes such as kidney beans, lentils and chick peas, and starchy veggies like corn, green peas and white potatoes.
Onions, green beans and cucumbers come under the "other" veggie category, and can't be substituted for another category.
Also this year, only fat-free and 1 percent milk will be offered, and only the fat-free milk can be flavored.
"This isn't a bad thing. This is a good thing. We want our kids to have great meals," Albi said.
What the kids are really going to see is the portion sizes of the grains, to a certain degree, have gotten smaller, said Kim Roll, head of food service in the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda district.
Grains are ingredients in bread, pasta and rice. Elementary students in Ken-Ton schools used to get 8-inch tortillas, now they will eat 6-inch tortillas, she said. Sandwich wraps for high schoolers used to be 12 inches, now they will be 8 inches.
"We agree that students need to have less grains, more fruits, more vegetables. We do agree students need to eat better," Roll said. "This isn't such a bad thing, but it happened so fast."
Cafeteria directors expect that food vendors will come up with more products that will meet the new standards, but some cafeterias might go back to homemade dishes.
"You're going to see some schools going to scratch cooking because they can control the amount of sodium," Albi said.
School districts that run their own kitchens trained their cafeteria workers last week in how to prepare and serve the meals.
Some food service directors are worried there might be more food wasted when children are forced to take an item they don't like. That's where education, and a little bit of persuasion come in.
"I'm a little worried that participation may decrease," Albi said. "They'll notice they have smaller portions of the meats and grains, but there's going to be larger portions of veggies."
"The intent is children would be trying and having more fruits and vegetables. We have our work cut out for us," said O'Brien Wood of Buffalo. "Once they leave the serving line, we can't tell them what to do with it."

email: bobrien@buffnews.com