DeWitt families prepare for new school lunches

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by Jessica Pedersen

Bath-DeWitt Connection staff writer

DEWITT, Mich- DeWitt students and their families are preparing for the new, healthy changes to school lunches that the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday.

Most of the new lunches will have less sodium, more fruits and vegetables and more whole grain, according to the USDA’s website.

DeWitt resident and parent Renee Ostrander said although she likes the idea of children eating healthier at school,there’s something’s that bothers her.

“Of course the healthy lunches are a good idea,” Ostrander said. “But I also think that the children shouldn’t be deprived of anything.”

Ostrander said she was comfortable with the idea of healthier options for kids, but she did not think some of the stricter requirements of the USDA’s meal plans were necessary.

“I don’t see any reason why the children have to have white milk over chocolate milk,” Ostrander said. “Chocolate milk is still a lot better than pop or sugary juice.”

Her daughter, Kyleigh Burtley, 6, agreed.

“I don’t like white milk, I don’t think they can make me drink it,” Burtley said. “Chocolate milk is a lot better. And strawberry milk.”

Tucker Fries, 18, said he didn’t think the changes were necessary for high school students.

“I think in high school, students are old enough to make their own choices and not have the school or the government force them to eat what they don’t want to eat,” Fries said.

Burtley said she would also like to have menu options.

he said she would be willing to make the healthier choice, sometimes.

“I could choose to have some apples instead of the cookies, and it would be healthier,” Burtley said.

French fries are a particularly controversial item that students will now be seeing less of at lunch time.

Burtley said she wouldn’t mind giving up her french fries a few days a week, but that the substitute, sweet potatoes, would be a tough sell.

“I don’t like sweet potatoes, I don’t think having them at school will be a good idea,” Burtley said. “I don’t know anybody in my class that likes those.”

The fact that the USDA’s requirements don’t toss out all the old favorites is a plus, Fies said.

“It’s great that they are not going to completely get rid of pizza altogether,” Fries said. “Whole grain pizza probably tastes the same, so I think students will still like it. Plus they’ll be getting that whole grain, so it’s a good thing.”

Fries also said that he would not like the requirements very much if they pushed too much salad on him.

“I feel like a lot of what I’ve heard about the requirements involves a lot of salad, and salads are kind of a food for before a meal, not for the meal,” Fries said.

Despite reservations, Ostrander thinks that, overall, the new requirements will be a positive addition to DeWitt Public Schools.

“I like that there will be more fruits and vegetables, that’s always good to see,” Ostrander said.

Ostrander also likes the flexibility of the program.

“It seems like school lunches will still retain some kind of choices and I think that’s great,” she said. “It’s not like everything will be changing, it’s just going to be healthier.”

Although the USDA is requiring schools districts like DeWitt Public Schools to sell these healthy options, students will not be required to purchase them.

“I don’t think many students, high schoolers at least, will want to skip lunch just to avoid some whole grain, so I think the changes will be pretty effective,” Fries said.

Ostrander said it was important to remember that parents and students always have the option to pack lunches.

“If for some reason somebody was really against the healthy lunches, they could always just send their kid to school with a lunchbox,” she said. “Packing a lunch is still an option for those that are really concerned about the condition of school lunches.”

Burtley said that she is generally excited about the changes her lunch might have next year.

“Maybe there will be some new vegetables instead of some of the stuff we have now,” she said. “Maybe if I try some sweet potatoes, I could even like them.”

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