GCPS to offer salad bars, healthier snack options

So long, Honey Bun. Goodbye, Fritos and Oreos.

Under new national guidelines that kicked in July 1, schools that are part of the national school lunch program can no longer sell such treats, and Gwinnett County Public Schools has worked with vendors to make sure the new rules are being followed.

The “Smart Snacks in School” program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture covers foods and drinks sold in vending machines, on cafeteria a la carte menus and for club fundraisers during school hours.

Among the changes are limits on calories, sodium and sugar, and grain items must have 50 percent or more whole grains by weight, or list whole grains as their first ingredient.

In most cases, students will be offered water instead of soda, baked chips instead of regular and fruit instead of candy bars.

District spokesman Jorge Quintana said training sessions took place over the summer to communicate the information to vendors and school personnel.

“While these changes do not apply to the school district and the School Nutrition Program, district staff have implemented a plan to guide and support local schools and vendors as the regulations apply to snacks sold in local schools,” Quintana said. “The school district will continue to communicate with the vendors and schools up to the start of the school year.”

The district is also adding salad bars to 25 schools through grant funding from the Whole Kids Foundation and a program called Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools, a national effort to increase the amount and variety of fruits and vegetables in school lunchrooms.

Because of the grant, the district can enhance nutritious and healthy meal options it offers to students.

“Healthy students are better students,” Karen Hallford, Gwinnett’s registered dietitian, said in a press release. “Having student salad bars may be one of the best ways to increase vegetable consumption among our students as salad bars allow our students to customize their lunches with veggies that they like and perhaps try some new ones as well.”

Hallford added that by using the salad bar, students can build their own side salads, chef salads, or they can add extra vegetables to their entrees such as burgers, subs and wraps.

The Whole Kids Foundation’s grant funds salad bars at the following 25 Gwinnett schools:

• Alford Elementary

• Crews Middle

• Anderson-Livsey Elementary

• Dacula Middle

• Centerville Elementary

• Duluth Middle

• Cooper Elementary

• Grace Snell Middle

• Dacula Elementary

• Hull Middle

• Duncan Creek Elementary

• Jones Middle

• Fort Daniel Elementary

• Lanier Middle

• Harris Elementary

• Trickum Middle

• Ivy Creek Elementary

• Mulberry Elementary

• Meadowcreek High

• Norton Elementary

• Parkview High

• Parsons Elementary

• Monarch School

• Rock Springs Elementary

• Rosebud Elementary