With the first year of nutrition standards completed for schools across the nation, 316 out of 474 Iowa schools earned certification under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which began implementation last year.
In its first of ten years, the act focused on school lunches, recommending schools alter calorie and sodium levels to fit within minimum and maximum standards. In addition, fruits and vegetables were served at every meal.
"Last Year was the big year for changes," Kevin Concannon, under secretary of food, nutrition and consumer services with the USDA, said. "It was the transition year."
At Spencer schools, Food Services Coordinator Laurie Lawson felt the year "went well."
"I think our count stayed pretty good," she said. "I know the kids complained, but in the end I think they came to the line and did well."
While Lawson noted many kids were upset over the lack of desserts, the new fruit and vegetable bar was a "huge thing."
"I think that one of the most talked about things was increasing the fruits and vegetables," Ann Feilmann, bureau chief of the bureau of nutrition and health services at the Iowa Department of Education, said. "What probably surprised me the most was the creativity, and the sharing and trying of new recipes that we saw around the state."
Even though the first year of the program was deemed a success by many, several parents and students felt the programs' changes were a little too drastic.
"We switched to my children bringing their own lunches last year," Brittany Spooner, a community parent, said. "The price is too high for how little they were receiving, and I save more and I know they are eating enough to get them through a school day."
Other comments on Facebook included similar thoughts.
"My 6-year-old little girl and 9-year-old son come home from school everyday saying 'we are hungry,'" said Tiffany Jones.
Concannon noted results from a recent study by the Center for Disease Control that found "in several states childhood obesity either has remained the same or has gone down."
"I think we'll directly see, in several years, the impact," he said.
"It's not the school lunch that's making these children obese," Lawson said. "And I know the kids complain they're hungry. But when they complain, you have to wonder if they ate what was offered or if they picked what they wanted to eat."
Spooner noted the difference between standards for lunch and standards for breakfast.
"I know the changes were brought to try to bring a healthier lifestyle to our children," she said. "But how is a Pop-Tart for breakfast healthier than a single cookie at lunch? How is that something sustainable to get them through to lunch?"
Breakfast will be the focus of the upcoming second year of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. Lawson noted the district will be realigning its meals to fit within minimum and maximum calorie and sodium levels.
"That's our biggest issue," she said. "There's no more breakfast pizza, no more sausage, and no more syrup products. We'll still have pancakes, waffles and french toast, but everything will be prepackaged within that individual item."
"I think we're just looking at breakfast a little differently," Feilmann said. "There may be a little difference in the offerings, but many of the changes will be on the planning side."
Lawson noted the Spencer district is in compliance with the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act's nutritional standards.
"We're going in the right direction," she said. "I definitely think the kids need to eat healthier, and I think they're becoming used to it."