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New Iowa City schools food director implements new guidelines

BY LAUREN COFFEY | AUGUST 30, 2012 6:30 AM

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For Alison Demory, providing healthy and nutritious food for students in the Iowa City School District isn’t her toughest challenge. It’s getting the students to eat everything on their plate — including their fruits and vegetables.

The new food service director for the Iowa City schools faces new guidelines for a nutritional program, which began last month.  Demory was hired in July following the retirement of the previous director. She said focusing on educating students about healthy options and providing locally grown food is key.

“I’m just trying to educate students and family about what to expect,” she said, “so they don’t come to school with these new changes. Educating them is the recipe for success.”

Demory is continuing the Farm to School program the district implemented a few years ago. The program brings locally grown foods onto the lunch menu.

Typically, a school lunch consists of five components — meat or a meat alternative, milk, grains, fruits, and vegetables.  Included in the new lunch requirements are that students must take at least three of the five components and must take a fruit or vegetable.

School officials are trying to offer a variety of fruits and vegetables for students in an attempt to decrease the amount being thrown away in the trash.

“We plan our menu according to the fact that they have to take a vegetable or a fruit,” Demory said.

She said the Farm to School program helps gives the school system a variety fresh fruit and vegetable options.

The School District has seen an increase of 12 school gardens in the last two years, The Daily Iowan previously reported.

School officials are especially concerned about the quality of the food in light of an audit released last fall by Synesi Associates that outlined many points of improvement in the quality of food served in the cafeterias. Areas of improvement also included the transportation of food and options.

Demory was unable to provide costs for the new initiative.

Ann Feilmann, bureau chief of Nutrition and Health for the Iowa Department of Education, said schools across the state are getting creative to ensure students are enjoying what they eat.  Some offer a vegetable and fruit bar, a hummus option, and placing whole-wheat flour in more foods.

The local School District does not offer foods with trans-fat and has calorie limits for each grade level.

Currently, half of the food offered needs to be whole-grain rich. In 2014, all of the school lunches will need to meet that requirement.

Feilmann said the updated guidelines would address the issue of missing nutrients on a daily basis.

“It provides a healthy meal, a daily meal, that increases the nutrients that all kids are missing,” she said.

School Board member Karla Cook said educating students about nutritional value at an early age is important.

“I think [the nutritional program is] great,” she said. “I think the earlier we can introduce eating right, the better.”

In the next few years, changes will continue to be made to ensure students are getting the best meal possible at school.

“We still have lots to learn with the meal pattern,” Feilmann said. “But we’ve had really great feedback with many positive responses.”


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