With New Salt and Sugar Limits, School Cafeterias Are ‘Cringing’

Around 11:40 on a cool spring day in early April, students began to stream into the lunchroom at Haleyville High School in Alabama.

Cheerleaders, soccer and baseball players, and other members of the student body filed through the lunch line and sat at their tables. They chatted and laughed about upcoming games (go, Roaring Lions!) and prom as they dug into plates of chicken Alfredo, green beans and salad.

Emma Anne Hallman, standing in a corner, watched the teenagers carefully. As the child nutrition director for the Haleyville City School District, she has the job of feeding 1,600 students, in prekindergarten through 12th grade.

Emma Anne Hallman, the nutrition director for the Haleyville School District, said the proposed food regulations “could result in changes across our menus.”

For months, Ms. Hallman and other heads of school lunch programs have worried about new federal regulations that would reduce allowable sodium levels and introduce new sugar restrictions for foods served in school cafeterias. A debate has raged, with many parents and nutritionists applauding efforts to make lunches more nutritious while some school lunch administrators fretted that the results will be less tasty to students, reducing consumption and increasing waste.

“We are cringing, as it could result in changes across our menus,” Ms. Hallman said. “We would have to look at the sodium amounts in the recipes of some of our students’ favorite foods, like chicken wings, hot wings or even some of the Asian foods.”

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