Know Food Now Whole Grain-Rich Pasta - Schools Can't Pass the Palatable Test | Know Food Now

Monday, April 20, 2015

Whole Grain-Rich Pasta - Schools Can't Pass the Palatable Test


State agencies that administer school meal programs can grant exemptions from the whole-grain rich requirement in meals to schools that can demonstrate difficulty in obtaining compliant whole-grain pasta products that children will eat.

These schools would still have to meet the minimum requirement for school year 2013-2014, but they can be exempt for the remainder of  SY 2015 and in SY 2015-2016.

Whole-grains are significantly higher in fiber and nutrients than refined grains. They contain twice the amount of B vitamins and minerals. Schools only have to serve between 50 - 100 percent whole-grain foods. The remaining 50% or less can be enriched pasta. So what's the problem?

Whole grain pasta is an acquired taste and must be cooked to perfection so it doesn't turn gummy. Combine these obstacles with kids that are notoriously picky eaters and leave food on their plates and you get complaints from both kids and their parents.  For the schools, financial hardship, limited product availability, and poor quality are  reasons they want to be exempted from providing the whole-grain healthy alternative to refined grain pasta.

Schools could try various substitutes before eliminating pasta from the lunch menu.  Jenny Grover on the Mother Nature Network, advises introducing new foods to children slowly and creatively. She suggests cooking pasta that is 1/2 whole grain pasta and 1/2 refined pasta.  Throwing whole grain pasta into soups or stews is another suggestion from Jenny.

Or schools could eliminate poorly cooked pasta altogether and  provide the necessary nutrients for children from healthy sandwiches made with whole grain breads.

The USDA has provided guidance to States to help them meet these exemption requests. Pasta not withstanding, there are requirements for substitutions that will provide whole grains in school meals. School Food Authority's (SFAs) that receive an exemption must remain responsible for incorporating whole grain-rich products into school menus and must ensure that at least half of the grain items offered weekly is whole-grain rich.

Bottom line, with the USDA's assistance, schools will just have to study harder to get whole-grain pasta done right by 2016.

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