Local schools consider new nutrition guidelines under Trump administration

The U.S. Agriculture Department partially rolled back rules put in place by the Obama administration

Schools across the Mahoning Valley struggle to meet federal lunch guidelines.

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – President Donald Trump announced last week that his administration is scaling back school meal nutritional requirements.

The U.S. Agriculture Department partially rolled back rules put in place by the Obama administration. The changes impact how much federally mandated salt is allowed in school meals and could mean fewer whole grains for some students.

Tascin Brooks, food service director for Austintown Local Schools, said prior to 2012, schools pretty much had control over the food that was served.

After the nutritional mandates of the Obama administration, she said it became a challenge to find foods that met the requirements that kids would actually eat but that the district was successful in creating healthy and tasty options.

“We had to do things like taste testing. We had to do things like developing a panel of kids talking to us about what they wanted to eat,” Tascin said.

Tascin said the students have grown to like their healthier options and that companies have worked hard to make the food look and taste more appealing. She said the new standards set last week will have very little impact on what they serve, saying they’ve already made positive steps forward.

Some of the changes include choice. Schools now have the option to serve 1 percent flavored milk instead of fat-free, and can now ask for an exemption to have the option to serve 50 percent whole grain instead of 100 percent.

“The kids don’t ever throw their chocolate milk away. That is something they drink, so that is not a big change for us. We will probably stay on the course as well,” Tascin said. “Companies have worked really hard at making buns very good that are whole grain. They look like white buns, and they have a lot of flavor. They are not dry.”

The changes mean that one popular item could be back on the lunch table – pasta.

“We might sign up for the waivers so that we can do spaghetti. That’s where we see the noodles are our hardship. That’s where we may be going,” Tascin said.

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