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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The new unpaid-balance policy at Canon-McMillan School District in Pittsburgh is making waves after a former cafeteria worker sounded off about the practice on social media.

Stacy Koltiska said she quit her job with the district after being forced to take hot meals away from students who owed lunch money, CBS News reports .

Under a new policy that was implemented at Canon-McMillan this year, students whose lunch debt exceeds $25 are not allowed to receive a hot lunch. Children in grades K-6 are given a sandwich in its place, and older students receive no lunch. A recent...

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Due to low participation in its lunch program, Talawanda School District in Oxford, Ohio, is raising the price of school meals this year, Patch.com reports .

The cost of school lunches will see a 30-cent increase, half of which is being enacted to cover the district’s budget. The other half is being required by the government to cover the cost of free and reduced-price lunches provided to low-income families. Prior to this year, the district had not raised prices since 2009.

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Six Philadelphia hospitals were honored by the city’s department of public health for healthy food initiatives introduced as part of the local Good Food, Healthy Hospitals program, bizjournals.com reports .

The hospitals each debuted healthy measures to their dining services, such as lowering the cost of water bottles and seltzers, and offering dishes that incorporate local produce. One hospital was also honored for operating its own organic farm.

The facilities that were honored were:

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