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New federal guidelines for school lunches

Rochester, N.Y. - Student lunches will be changing when class resumes in the fall after a more stringent set of federal guidelines take effect July 1.

The changes to lunches have been a two part change, the first one which started in 2012.

Fruits and vegetables have always been an option in school lunch lines, but soon students won't have a choice. Every tray will be loaded with a cup of both, which will make half a student's meal fruit and vegetables.

All meals and snacks must now meet a specific diet plan.

"It's truly a challenge. I'd like to say that planning the menu these days is like trying to put together the pieces of a puzzle. I really look at the calories that it all comes to, how much sodium, how much fat, not trans-fat. It even includes all the condiments," school nutritionist Debbi Beauvais said.

Beauvais has the challenge of not only providing a nutritious meal, but also one that kids will want to eat.

"The school lunches have definitely gotten a lot healthier and a lot of people have told me they don't like the food," said Ryan Ta, a student at Gates-Chili.

Students will have to take the fruits and vegetables, but no one can force them to eat the food, which means that some of it will get thrown away straight from the tray.

"Honestly, I can tell you my produce bill has doubled in the last two years from what it was before the 2010 regulations," Beauvais said.

Costs will continue to grow, now that bigger portion sizes are required for students. The number of kids eating school lunches is decreasing.

Beauvais said that she is down a few hundred meals a day, which comes out to about 36,000 meals a year, a loss of about $92,000 in revenue this year.

"They just said it doesn't taste good, some of them say it tastes like cardboard," Ta said.

Diet restrictions go beyond the lunch line and are now impacting vending machines and bake sales. Any food or drink sold on school property during school hours must meet the federal guidelines.

As kids are introduced to more foods and learn to like healthier options, Beauvais said she expects school lunch numbers to go back up, but right now they are focusing on finding ways to just get kids to try the new meals.

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Washington Times