Wednesdays have meant fried chicken in Bulloch County school lunchrooms since anyone can remember. But the southern staple has been replaced with baked tenders and popcorn chicken. It is part of the new federal school nutrition guidelines.
"More whole grains, no fried foods. It's been a challenge to bake everything using the kitchen equipment we have," stated Megan Blanchard, school nutrition director for Bulloch County schools. "Living here in the south, it's been a challenge. We've had to really limit our starchy vegetables. We now have vegetable subgroups that we have to meet. "
A reduction in daily calories meant smaller portions too. 10 popcorn chicken nuggets constitutes a meat serving for middle school plates. Traditional deserts have been replaced with fruit servings. The changes, the USDA's first in 15 years, hope to halt the national increase in obesity and Type II diabetes. But the drastic changes, here and elsewhere, came as a shock to some students and parents.
"We've had both negative and positive feedback," Blanchard said.
Some Southeast Bulloch Middle School students vowed on Facebook to stage a lunch boycott Wednesday. However, during WTOC's visit to the school, lunch trays outnumbered lunch boxes tenfold or more.
Blanchard said the menu isn't written in stone. They plan to conduct further taste testing with students, introduce new varieties of fruits and vegetables to get student input while still meeting federal guidelines.
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