ST. PAUL (WCCO) — Metro students returning to school today found some new healthier options in the cafeteria. New federal guidelines kicked in on Tuesday, which means smaller portions and more fruits and vegetables.

Students at St. Paul schools got their first taste as the district opened for the first day of classes. Many students started off the day with a new healthier breakfast.

The major difference is the amount of fresh produce students are encouraged to eat and serving sizes for things like meat and grains.

While opinions on the new menus differ, students say so far, it’s a major improvement.

It’s probably the last thing most students have on their mind heading into day one of a new school year.

But with wraps replacing subs and vegetables out numbering meats and grains, it’s something they can’t ignore.

“A huge difference, like a big difference,” said Shadiya Omar, Como Senior High student. “I actually eat the vegetables now compared to last year.”

A typical new plate now has a side salad, fresh fruit, fresh cut vegetables and a serving a meat or a healthy meat substitute.

“Lunch has come a long was since my 7th grade year,” said Andres Sateren. “I mean we used to get stacks of like 12 cookies.”

It’s all a result of new requirements from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Broken down by age:
— Elementary school students must have a half a cup of fruits and vegetables each day.
— Middle school students are required to have 3/4 of a cup.
— High school students are given a full cup of each daily.

As part of the new requirements, kids cannot come back for seconds of things like meat, but they are free to fill up on all the fresh fruits and vegetables they want.

“Kids that are well nuished are going to do better in school. That’s true for breakfast. That’s true for lunch,” said Jean Ronnei, director of nutrition at St. Paul schools.

And while the reviews we found were good, there are still some complaints.

“As far as like cheese and stuff, we couldn’t get as much as we wanted to,” said one student.

There are also new calorie requirements based on age. Younger students are allowed 650 calories for lunch and older high school-age students, 850 calories.


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