hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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February 3, 2011

School lunches to be put on a diet

What's on the plate of Superintendent James Scully and first lady Michelle Obama? Your children's food.

In light of reforms proposed by the USDA and a heavily publicized healthy-foods campaign by Mrs. Obama, Scully said he wants to take a closer look at meals offered to students throughout the district to ensure they're in line with national suggestions that soon enough will become mandates.

Scully said that throughout his career as a superintendent he has wanted to help reform meal offerings. Now, with national attention on the matter, he feels the time's right.

"In the past it's always agitated me," he said. "Are we offering what's right for kids?"

Scully's primary complaint is with limited options at lunchtime and his observation that many meals are heavy on cheese. Scully said he took a close look at meals from November to December of 2010 to inspire his campaign.

A typical week's lunch menu accompanies this article. At the high school level, almost every meal is either made with cheese as an ingredient, or cheese is offered to students as a selection.

Scully is not alone in his aspirations for a healthier meal time.

In December 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the "Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act," primarily at the urging of his wife and the bipartisan support of the Senate. The bill will provide $4.5 billion in aid over the next decade to school meal programs, the first time in 30 years such programs have received additional funding from the government.

Most notably, the law authorizes the USDA to set nutritional standards on foods served during the school day and to audit school districts every three years to ensure food providers comply with the regulations. The law will also ensure parents have easier access to "nutritional information" provided by the district's food suppliers. No timeframe has been set for these regulations to go into effect.

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