School Lunches Get a Makeover

September 4, 2012 Updated Sep 4, 2012 at 7:03 PM EDT

By WKBW Admin

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September 4, 2012 Updated Sep 4, 2012 at 7:03 PM EDT


Williamsville, NY (WKBW) - It's back to school for millions of kids this week. This year, new lunch requirements have some schools scrambling to make their meals with less fat, salt and calories.

The reason for the changes -- the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, passed by US lawmakers. First Lady Michelle Obama pushed for the initiative.

Channel 7's Rachel Elzufon went to Williamsville South High School to see how that district is dealing with the changes.

Kathy Christopher, a Childhood Nutrition Director with Williamsville Central School District, says the biggest change is "we increased our offerings for fruits and vegetables by doing a salad bar and our sub bar."

Schools across Western New York and the rest of the country have to plan for every student taking a fruit and vegetable. Starches have to be made up of at least 51% whole grain. In two years, that number will go up to 100%.

Even pizza dough is made up of whole grains at the Williamsville Central School District.

Dessert, for the most part, gets the ax. Kathy explains "We moved to dessert maybe once a month. We encourage students to take a fruit and vegetable, so any desserts we do in the future will probably include a fruit."

The United States is seeing an obesity epidemic. A CDC survey estimates about 17-percent of young Americans and 36-percent of adults are obese.

In Erie and Niagara counties, about 30-percent of everyone is obese.

Obesity comes with many issues, including diabetes and heart problems.

Schools will be combating these illnesses. That's why Kathy says "We have maximum levels of sodium for breakfast and lunch that we will be focusing on this year."

Often, healthier foods cost more. Williamsville Central is offsetting that by purchasing locally. Kathy says "We have fresh apples that are local that are delivered everyday, and as a matter of fact they were delivered this morning by our local farmer and they're already out."

However, that does not mean districts won't feel a financial pinch. What students choose to grab in the lunch line can affect the district's budget. Kathy explains "We do not get money back from the state or federal government on a meal that does not include a fruit or vegetable."

Lawmakers hope that's just one incentive to lower the nation's obesity rate and get young Americans nutrition on track.