- Associated Press - Monday, February 2, 2015

HARRISBURG, S.D. (AP) - Caleb Schneider picked at his cookie, but he wasn’t exactly sweet on the crumbly treat.

Something is different about the lunch line’s cookies this year at Harrisburg High School.

Healthier, yes. But the texture’s off, Schneider said.

Reviews are mixed when it comes to taste. Some students buy the new cookies every day and find pleasure in the oaty vanilla flavor.

Schneider, 16, pines for last year’s cookies.



“Last year, I was just getting as many as I could,” Schneider said. “They’re definitely a lot worse than last year, but sometimes I still get them, because who doesn’t like cookies, right?”

Schools across the United States were forced to meet health guidelines for snacks this year with the roll out of the federal Smart Snacks program. The 2014-15 school year is the first year all foods must meet dietary restrictions set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The menu changes this year affected school snacks, including the cafeteria’s a la carte options - chips, drinks and other treats kids can buy after eating lunch.

As for cookies, numbers indicate more students side with Schneider.

By this point last year, Harrisburg lunchrooms had purchased 34,308 cookies. Purchasing is down to about 18,000 so far this year.

And it’s making a difference on the bottom line. The drop in cookie sales equals about $12,195 in lost revenue, said Chris Beach, food service supervisor for the Harrisburg School District.

Combined, first semester a la carte sales in Harrisburg are down about $4,000 from last year, despite a 9 percent increase in enrollment.

But Beach isn’t too worried. More students seem to be getting used to the changes, including the different cookies.

“We’re down, but not as down as I thought,” Beach said.

‘We’re about feeding the kids and feeding them right’

Brandon Valley School District made a similar cookie change, switching to a slightly smaller, healthier recipe, capable of meeting the federal government’s nutrition standards.

Chocolate chip cookie sales plummeted from about 600 a day to roughly 150 a day. School lunchrooms in Brandon Valley have made up the difference by adding offerings, Nutrition Director Gay Anderson said.

“It was just one of those things that we had, that we were known for,” Anderson said. “It was a huge hit with the students.”

The kids may be less excited about the snacks, but Anderson doesn’t want to slam the national movement toward healthier school food.

“I didn’t want to focus lots on the cookie sales, because we’re about feeding the kids and feeding them right.”

School snacks - including a chocolate chip cookie - must now have no more than 200 calories and no more than 230 mg of sodium. There are other requirements, including one that might be making a significant difference in the new cookie recipe: Snacks must be whole-grain rich.

Cookies in Harrisburg are made with oatmeal to add whole grains. Slightly smaller, they have 75 fewer calories, about half the amount of fat, less cholesterol, less sugar and more fiber.

Elliot Cain, 16, likes the new oatmeal taste. The Harrisburg junior grabbed three cookies off the line before heading to biology.

“They’re pretty good,” Cain said. “I kind of like them better.”

Beach isn’t certain whether the a la carte changes actually lead to a healthier diet. Students can eat whatever they want as soon as they leave the building. And they can bring their own snacks to school.

“If they aren’t purchasing them in the school, they’re going to purchase them in a convenient store and bring them in,” Beach said.

School cafeterias can serve healthier food, but old eating habits die hard. The same is true for Cain and his fellow students.

“Changing what we eat here isn’t going to solve the whole obesity problem,” Cain said. “But it’s a step in the right direction.”

___

Information from: Argus Leader, https://www.argusleader.com

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