Now parents can see the nutritional content of what their children are eating at school, as some districts are going public with the school lunch menu online.
In Poudre School District in Colorado, parents will be able to see the nutrition facts and access a database of the cafeteria menu which includes ingredients and allergens.
Parents were previously offered a database of the nutritional content of the food, Last year some parents requested that the district also include information on ingredients and allergens.
The result was the Recipe Builder and Ingredient Database, which started in May with recipes for breakfast and lunch, and included 228 ingredients an a glossary of additives, enzymes, and supplements.
“It’s really exciting to see this kind of thing,” said Virginia Clark, wellness dietician with University of Colorado Health. “I hadn’t seen anything this extensive before (in a school system).”
“It was quite the task,” Craig Schneider, PSD’s child nutrition director, said of the project. “As far as I know, there’s no other school district in the country doing this.”
Schneider said food allergen information, such as wheat, nut and milk ingredients, used to be available only to the schools’ nurses.
Now parents and families have direct access to it for meal planning purposes, which Clark said is great, if parents use it.
“(Schools) want to put a title on the menu that’s appealing to kids,” Clark said, “so they may not list ‘whole grain,’ ‘low fat’ or ‘lean.’ … This way, the title can appeal to kids and parents can have a resource to go to.”
Some menu titles, such as garlicky green beans, are more self-explanatory. But a chicken bite or an orange chicken might require more context.
Using the schools’ August cafeteria menus and the online database, Clark said one thing she noticed is that dishes containing rice or noodles are made with brown rice and whole grain noodles.