MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) — Cheese.
Ask students at Central High School what they miss in their school lunches this year, and you will hear that word more than once.
It's the liquid cheese variety, the kind you pour over tortilla chips, that many are mourning. Like Ryan Dailey, 17.
"Bring back the cheese!" he joked as he munched on some Pringles brought from home. He added that school quesadillas could no longer be called that, "because they are now just dillas."
Cheese is not the only change to the school lunch menu at Muncie Community Schools, The Star Press reported (http://tspne.ws/UR7QGQ ).
Several new USDA lunch requirements had to be served in school lunch rooms across the country this year.
The servings of fruit and vegetables were increased, up to a full cup of both in high schools. And students must now choose at least one with their meal each day.
"You cannot refuse both the fruit and vegetable options at lunch," said Joanne Baierwalter, director of food services for the district.
At Central, most of the students are gravitating to the fresh fruit.
"I've seen a lot of kids eat apples I'm sure haven't eaten apples before," said Suzanne Crump, associate principal at Central.
There are also calorie requirements for each lunch, at each grade level. For elementary school kids, the lunches must be between 550 and 650 calories. For middle school students, it must be between 700 to 800, and for high school students, the range is 780 to 850 calories.
The menu changes are part of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack rolled out the new school lunch menus at the start of the 2012-2013 school year for the 32 million students who take part in the National School Lunch programs.
On the menu Tuesday at Central was chicken sticks or ham slices, green beans, salad, fruit, a roll and milk.
Muncie Community Schools uses the "offer" model rather than the "serve" model in its cafeterias.
That means all components of the lunch are offered, but the student does not have to take every one, except, of course, for one of either a fruit or veggie.
Although most kids got either a pineapple or green beans, some slipped by with just the chicken sticks, a roll and some milk.
What you won't see on the menu anymore is more than one bread item.
"I feel like our kids are getting more calories, only they are not in the form of bread, they are in the fruit and vegetables," Baierwalter said. "So if kids choose not to eat them, they probably are hungry."
Austin Murphy was shoveling in a salad with light ranch dressing.
"We don't get enough food," said Austin Murphy, 15, before he started on his second helping of chicken sticks. (He paid for the extra helping.)
Anastacia Hullinger, 16, agreed and said she wasn't a fan of some of the newer items, like sweet potato tater tots.
There is good news, though. The kids still get pizza each Friday.
(What they don't know is that it's made with whole grains, packed with fiber and topped with a simple red sauce and low-fat cheese.)
Baierwalter discussed the changes with parents who attended the monthly Superintendent's Parent Advisory Council meeting on Monday.
Most of the parents commented that they appreciated the changes, especially in the variety of foods (like red beans and rice) being offered.
Many of the required changes were made before this school year, Baierwalter noted, such as going to whole grain products.
And there are more changes to come.
"Next school year, the breakfast requirements kick in," Baierwalter said.
And each year, schools are required to lower the sodium levels in the foods.
"Kids will probably taste that difference," she said of the sodium. "We are all used to a lot of that."
Information from: The Star Press, http://www.thestarpress.com