A walk through the lunch program at Wayne
Once upon a time, the federal guidelines for the lunch program were more lax, requiring minimum but not maximum amounts of certain food groups and leaving a lot up to each school in how the requirements were handled.
Those days have come and gone.
On any given day, the kitchen at Wayne High School prepares lunch for the Wayne Community Schools, St. Mary’s elementary school, Head Start, Tower School and the Early Learning Center preschool.
In addition to the hundreds of students that receive their lunches, the Wayne High School and Wayne Elementary also serve breakfast for students who wish to take advantage of it.
“It’s really popular at the elementary school,” head cook Judy Poehlman said of the breakfast option. “It’s one less thing to worry about during the morning routine. Even kids riding the bus have enough time to come through and eat.”
Each student has a meal they personally love, but the thing that they all can agree on is the dinner rolls. That is, until the regulations caught people’s attention.
“We’d already switched over to 51 percent whole-grain buns but I never had said anything so when the guidelines came out I thought I had to write ‘whole grain’ behind it and so some of the kids started saying they didn’t like the buns because they were whole grain but they had been that way for some time.”
Poehlman said there were definitely things that didn’t pan out quite the way they should have after the new requirements were rolled out, like whole grain pasta.
“We were just switching over and we tried to do mac’n’cheese using 100 percent whole grain noodles, but they just turned to mush. The kids came through the line saying ‘oh, we don’t want tuna casserole, we want mac’n’cheese,’ ” Poehlman said with a laugh. “The noodles were dark enough they thought it was tuna.”
Thankfully, Poehlman said, whole grain has come a long ways from what they started with, and for that she’s grateful.
Poehlman wasn’t upset when the newest set of regulations rolled in a few years ago. Like anything, she said, updates are necessary and the program hadn’t seen major changes in years.
Poehlman went on to explain how she thinks the program has good intentions and that while it may take a few years to work the kinks out, the idea behind more fruits and vegetables and less processed items isn’t a bad thing.
The regulations are put in place to encourage healthier eating habits, not to make the students leave hungry, Poehlman said.
Considering the rise in childhood obesity, diabetes and other health problems due in part to a lack of activity and the consumption of overly-processed foods, having a place that ensures all students are receiving healthy, filling meals isn’t just convenient, it’s necessary.
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