The hot trend in school lunches in the Montgomery County public schools can be summed up in two words: whole wheat.
That's right. Whole wheat, as in hamburger and hot dog buns, pasta and other items.
Kathy Lazor, director of food and nutrition for the county public schools, said the goal is to nudge kids away from the bad stuff and closer to foods that are good for them.
"Our students will be excited about changes we have in place," she said.
Still, Lazor acknowledged that getting kids to eat what adults think they should eat can be difficult. Students soundly rejected last school year's experiment with whole wheat pizza crust (too gummy), but she remains hopeful that whole wheat in a different form will find favor.
Students will also have access to more fresh fruit. Last year, grab-able fruits such as bananas, peaches and pears were available only on Fridays. Now the fruits will be offered five days a week.
There are other changes, too. The price for lunch will increase by a dime, to $1.95 in elementary schools and $2.05 in middle and high schools. All juices in machines must have 50 percent fruit content, up from 20 percent last school year. The increase is required under nutrition standards approved by the school system, Lazor said. Whole milk no longer will be offered; low-fat and flavored varieties will be available.
Lazor said the school system is trying hard to accommodate the tastes of a rapidly diversifying student population. She pointed out that some foods, such as burritos and egg rolls, once thought of as "ethnic" are now considered mainstream and are popular.
"We have a very diverse student population, so we try to meet their needs with foods that are familiar to them,'' she said.
Recent menu offerings have included arroz con pollo (chicken with rice), sweet and sour chicken, and fried rice.
It can be a challenge to capture home-cooked taste in a commercial food setting, Lazor said. But cooks are eager to do what they can to ensure food is tasty and nutritious, she said.