Judy Lubben

This school year is just about over in Iowa, but for those who cook the lunches every day for the kids, they’re already looking forward to some changes that’ll be in place next year.

The president of the School Nutrition Association of Iowa, Judy Lubben of Le Mars, says the new U.S. Agriculture Secretary made some changes the industry requested.

“With these changes, I hope our kids will start eating a little better,” Lubben says. Lubben says one of the biggest issues has been the requirement for the type of bread they could serve.

“We used to be 50 percent whole grain, and now we’ve gone to 100 percent whole grain. Now we can get exemptions for that,” Lubben says, “so we can fit in the product that actually the kids will like and we know that they are going to eat. We can write in and get it exempt, so we know that we can get that product in.” Another change involves an old favorite — chocolate milk.

“He wants to do a one percent chocolate milk, which is awesome. Right now we do a fat free,” Lubben says. She says another item that the students probably won’t notice is postponing the rule requiring them to lower the amount of sodium in the food. The new standards were championed by former First Lady Michelle Obama in an effort to make school lunches healthier.

Lubben pushed for the changes implemented by the new administration, and says they still want to provide healthy lunches, but she says they want to make changes in a way that the students accept. She cites the whole grain bread issue as an example.

“They’re not saying that we should not serve the whole grain and that we don’t want to serve the whole grain — it’s giving our industry the time to get it ready,” according to Lubben. “It takes time for the industry to create products for us. And each year since we’ve seen since they changed this, the products that they’ve come out with have been great.”

Lubben says the association has heard from a lot of districts about kids throwing away food. She says that problem is not always because the kids don’t like the food. “Sometimes it’s because we’ve offered the wrong sizes. You know our smaller kids don’t eat all the fruit and vegetables that they need. We are just trying to get it so that we are not wasting food. We are trying to give them a choice and this is going to help us,” Lubben says.

Lubben says the federal changes in the program give them more flexibility to adapt to what works best for the students. She hopes to be able to tell the U.S.D.A. that the changes have worked.

“We’re hoping that now with this we can give them feedback with numbers that will be coming back that our kids are going to be eating a little bit more,” Lubben says.

The School Nutrition Association of Iowa will hold its annual conference in June and members will talk about the changes as they look ahead to the 2017-2018 school year.