Des Moines Public Schools Ready for ‘Make School Meals Great Again’ Program

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DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Changes are likely coming for public school lunch programs.

The Trump administration announced they will relax the nutrition guidelines put on public school meals programs. Nothing is official yet, but Des Moines Public Schools anticipates the changes are coming.

“We can speculate all that we want, but until we get something in writing it’s all speculation,” said Amanda Miller, Director of Food & Nutrition Services for Des Moines Public Schools. 

It’s almost impossible to plan a meal when you don’t know what the ingredients are, and think about doing that for 44,000 meals each day. That’s what Miller has dealt with since the U.S. Department of Agriculture made the announcement earlier this month.  

“I think it could be big changes, I think it could be slight changes, but at the present time we’re going to go with status quo,” said Miller.

With no start date given, all Miller can go off of is a press release. Newly-appointed Secretary of Agriculture Sunny Perdue announced they would ease restrictions on the food served in schools. Highlights of the plan included no longer requiring schools to use 100% whole grains, loosening sodium intake rules, and allowing schools to serve flavored milk.

Miller says she likes the current guidelines and is cautious about change because the school has been successful so far. 

“Way more kids than we did when it started. We serve way more kids and we serve way more fruits and vegetables in some cases than we ever thought we would've,” she said. 

Also in the release, Secretary Perdue suggested kids aren’t eating the food and it’s ending up in the trash. Channel 13 went to Greenwood Elementary in Des Moines to find out if that was true for them, and Principal Eric Huinker couldn’t disagree more. 

“No. I’ll be honest with you. Our kids go through that line and very few things go into the garbage. They take what they eat,” said Huinker. 

This is true for many schools in the district, but there are challenges. Chad Taylor is the executive chef for the Des Moines school district and says kids are still having a tough time adjusting to whole grain pastas.

“That would be nice for us to be able to offer a 50% whole grain product instead of the 100%," he said. 

Taylor estimates they make about 60% of all their food, which is very high. They will be able to adjust if changes come quickly, but for now will keep their methods the same. 

“We are going to keep working with kids. Keep listening to what they have to say. To feed them healthy food that they want to eat, because in the end that is what we are here for,” said Miller.

Miller said it is probably too late to change the menu for the ‘17-’18 year, but if USDA does alter the rules her department will be ready.