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Editorial: New lunch rules are good for students

The Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District has had some challenges on its hands as it tries to adjust to new federal regulations on school lunches. The new rules put strict caps on the number of calories students can be served and regulate the grains, vegetables and proteins that can or must be on the menu.

It's all much stricter than it used to be, and while we can understand some of the frustration of having your creativity limited, we also see the benefits of the rules.

According to Rosemount Elementary School kitchen manager Shannon Morrison, the new rules have already resulted in more fruits and vegetables on students' trays. And while it's still a learning process, anything that helps encourage better eating habits is a good thing.

There are some other concerns. The new calorie caps imposed by the USDA are lower than the minimum formerly used by District 196. As a kitchen worker, it can be hard to send a student away with less food than they're used to when you know a school lunch might be the best meal they get that day. And while obesity is a concern nationally, District 196 food and nutrition services coordinator Wendy Knight said she does not see it as a significant problem locally. In other words, what the district was doing was already working.

District 196 deserves some credit for the efforts it has made in recent years to freshen up its lunch menus. Schools regularly bring in items from nearby sources. On Tuesday, a display in the RES cafeteria let students know which Minnesota cities produced various menu items.

That is a good start on the process of helping kids eat better. For all their challenges, we think these new rules are the next step on that road.