California schools join push for healthier eating

Local produce program helps reach health goals.

March 4—First lady Michelle Obama's push to improve the quality of food served in U.S. schools appears to be bearing fruit locally.

"Childhood obesity is a big buzz topic right now," said Cinde Stone, director of nutrition services at the Rialto (Calif.) Unified School District. "I think there's studies that show our nation as a whole is overweight. I think they're trying to help fix that problem."

In keeping with the first lady's goal, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been adjusting its school meal requirements so that districts must serve more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and less salt.

And for the first time, the government has set maximum calorie counts for meals served in schools. Previous regulations required only a minimum calorie count.

The new regulations will be phased in beginning in the 2012-13 school year, and many local districts are already adjusting their menus.

"It's been quite a transition because there are a lot of kids, particularly in this area, that grew up eating fast food," said Rose Fennell, nutrition specialist with the San Bernardino City Unified School District.

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Risley Dining Room at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., has just become 100 percent gluten-free, 14850.com reports.

For the past two years, the university has slowly phased out gluten in the dining hall’s menu by eliminating it in its stir fries, biscuits and brownies.

Instead of offering gluten-free versions of typical college fare, including pizza and pasta, the dining service team aimed for more sophisticated restaurant-style items.

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James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., recently hosted a weeklong program called Weigh the Waste, which aimed to show students how much food gets wasted in dining halls, The Breeze reports.

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The University of Maryland will begin offering weekly specials at all of its dining halls this semester, The Diamond Back reports.

The weekday specials will allow Dining Services to offer past menu items that students miss as well as new dishes students have been requesting, according to a spokesperson.

Students can find out which specials are being offered each week via dining hall table tents as well as through Dining Services’ social media. During select weeks, the specials may reflect a particular theme, such as Taste of the South.

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