Area schools are staying ahead of the curve as they adapt to new meal standards set forth in the National School Breakfast Program.
Last year, schools nationwide implemented healthier lunch options. This school year, standards for breakfast went into effect.
However, area child nutrition programs already began trying out new breakfast foods last year.
"We were already doing this last year because we try to stay ahead of it," says Jennifer Roach, Ardmore City Schools director of child nutrition. "We've had a year to practice and get kids used to stuff. We could make mistakes and find new products before we are required to follow the guidelines."
A major part of the standards is the increase in fruits and vegetables required being raised from 1/2 cup to a full cup. For example, previously students could take either a 1/2 cup of fruit or a carton of juice. Now, students must take both 1/2 cup of fruit and a juice or a full cup of fruit.
For Ardmore, it was a gradual transition. At first, cafeterias would serve canned fruit left from the previous day. Now, the fruit is a planned part of the menu.
"Since we are already doing it, we know what the cost would be," Roach says. "You have to be creative with what you serve with fresh fruit to keep cost down."
Yet, the transition was also simpler, as breakfast is usually planned and panned the night before.
"It's not that big of a change," says Liz Archeketa, Dickson Public Schools director of child nutrition. "It's more variety of fruits, but we have always wanted it to be a rainbow plate."
The other big difference is all grains being whole grains. Dickson staff toasts bread so students eat it now that it isn't white bread.
"When it's toasted, kids can't tell it's whole grain," Archeketa says.
The ease of the local transition to the new standards is common statewide. According to Dr. Janey Thornton, USDA food, nutrition and consumer services deputy undersecretary, Oklahoma is one of six states to have nearly 100 percent of schools already following the standards.
"As we continue to combat childhood obesity in America, I am proud to say that this back-to-school season, our school cafeterias are at the heart of offering great nutrition for our kids," she says.
In Dickson, students are surveyed about the meal choices and given the chance to weigh in on what they eat.
"We let them have a part in why we're doing this," Archeketa says. "We can't just make up a menu and they don't understand why we are doing it."
Dickson staff names foods to add excitement to the menu. For example, recent foods have been summertime chicken pasta, Hawaiian crunch wrap and southwest omelets.
Page 2 of 2 - To add more fruits for breakfast, Archeketa has tried serving yogurt parfaits, which include fresh fruit and granola. They were served with pineapple muffins and additional fruit.
"We tried the yogurt parfaits this week. They went over like wild fire," she says.
Next year, new regulations for snacks will be in effect. Such guidelines will include a la carte items sold on campus. However, local child nutrition departments aren't worried.
A la carte items at Dickson already include chef salads, yogurt and Switch, a variety of carbonated fruit juices.
"We've never served anything a la carte that didn't have nutritional value," Acheketa says.
In Ardmore, Roach expressed concerns about items that are sometimes sold by clubs as fundraisers.
"They haven't finalized anything yet, so it could be changed," she says. "It will be interesting to see how it all pans out, because it will be a change."