More than a year of healthy school lunches has finally paid off for West Holmes cafeterias.
The Ohio Department of Education approved Director of Cafeteria Services Dixie Gray's application to receive an additional 6 cents per student reimbursable lunch, as the school complied with meal pattern requirements set forth by the ODE Office for Child Nutrition.
Making the transition from pizza and French fries to healthier offerings of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in the wake the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, West Holmes school lunches now focus on nutrition, explained Gray.
The HHFKA, which was championed by Michelle Obama and signed by President Obama, focuses on aligning school meals with the latest nutritional science.
According to the new guidelines for lunch, there should be five food components offered to students -- skim milk, fruit, vegetable, grain and meat/meat alternative. A student may choose all five components or may decline up to two components. However, high school students must take at least a half-cup of either a fruit or a vegetable or may choose a quarter cup of both fruit and a vegetable.
For the week of Dec. 17-20, for example, WHHS students had daily healthy meal choices: A chicken bowl with the choice of corn or mashed potatoes, a turkey wrap with lettuce, tomatoes and cheese or barbecue rib patty with vegetables or fruit, a pizza burger or meatball sub with green beans, carrots and celery and a chicken patty sandwich with broccoli and a tossed salad.
To be approved, Gray submitted certification documentation via the State Claims Reimbursement and Reporting System.
Gray submitted weekly menus and nutritional values to the state system, which had to measure up to all components of HHFKA. Consequent menus also will have to meet the new standards.
Following the certification, the ODE, OCN will continue to perform validation reviews, annual assessments and administrative reviews in following years.
Before being approved for the additional reimbursement, the school received $2.86 for each free meal served. When the cafeteria served more than 1,600 meals a day, an additional 6 cents adds up to nearly $100 a day and nearly $500 per week, Gray said.
"(Gray) and kitchens across the district put a lot of work into that, they worked together to make that happen. We're excited," said Superintendent Kris Perone.
Reporter Kelley Mohr can be reached at 330-674-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.