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OPINION: School innovators make school lunches work

These days, it’s easy to blame the federal government for aggravating our lives.

Here’s one example: The new school lunch program standards unveiled last year. The healthier eating guidelines, effective at the start of last school year, set limits on calories and salt in the lunches. They also phased in more whole grains and required fruits and vegetables to be included in the menus daily.

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The problem is many students just didn’t like the foods being served.

So, many observers quickly blamed the federal program for the problems in implementation. Some parents started supplementing their children’s lunches or replacing the meals altogether with foods their kids would eat.

That’s certainly one corrective avenue to take.

But it’s refreshing to see some school districts take a different approach. Maybe, the school officials said, if we work at it just a little — add a dose of ranch dressing here and there for example — we can get our students to try new foods and to eat the healthier meals.

In Baltic, for example, school lunch supervisors tinkered with the menus, and presented more familiar foods to kids more often. And meal planners started serving one-ounce servings of fat-free ranch dressing with the carrot sticks and broccoli.

In Tea, when students refused to try green peppers, refried beans and garbanzo beans, the school lunch officials also went back to a more familiar list of vegetables. And they’re marketing the foods differently, changing the names of some offerings to entice kids to try them.

Some of their tactics seem to be working. And that’s the point.

The standards set up in the National School Lunch program are designed to be healthier for children. We cannot deny that childhood obesity is a problem in our society. Healthier eating habits, even small bites at a time, will help these young people live longer, happier lives.

It’s a goal that’s certainly worthy of effort by school districts. We applaud those school lunch officials who haven’t thrown up their hands and blamed the federal government or simply blamed the media for the problems with the reception and implementation of the healthier lunch guidelines.

They’re being imaginative. They’re communicating with parents, and they’re working out healthier eating solutions.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all federal government disagreements could end in compromises such as these?

-Sioux Falls Argus Leader