(01/09/2014)
A common complaint expressed by students and parents in the nation's school systems is about the portions of food are too small.

The USDA federal school meal regulations that were originally designed to combat childhood obesity are now less strict, meaning bigger portions of certain foods for students in West Virginia and across the country.

The USDA announced new flexibility, allowing school districts to serve larger portions of lean meats and whole grains without being penalized.

"It basically forced schools to offer more fruits and vegetables. But it was a pretty fine line to meet the minimum and not exceed the maximum, and when the schools started to write those new menus, they had a hard time," said Linda St. Clair, a registered dietitian who works for the West Virginia Department of Education's Office of Child Nutrition.

Schools had been adding nutritionally empty foods to meet meal requirements because adding anything else would put them over their allowed limit.

Now, the changes could mean the addition of yogurt or cottage cheese to a school's salad bar, or increasing the size of the whole-grain rolls often served with lunch, St. Clair said.

The subject of well-balanced school meals is especially important in West Virginia where childhood obesity rates are among the highest in the country and more than 60 percent of public school students qualify for free and reduced-price meals.

See   WEST VIRGINIA DIABETES RATES SKYROCKETING - 30% Calhoun 5th Graders Obese

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