Spaghetti and mystery meatballs tend to be a running joke when talking about school lunches, but Half Hollow Hills is taking special care in deciding what goes into its noodles. The district recently swapped the type of pasta it offers to avoid allergic reactions to nut products.
The Board of Education announced last month that the school district has swapped its protein-packed Barilla Plus pasta, for the traditional version. The extra protein in the Plus variety contains legumes, which can cause a reaction within those with nut allergies.
Half Hollow Hills has seen an uptick in allergy cases among its students, Bonnie Scally, child nutrition program director, said. The trend in the school district matches the growing problem of food allergies among young people in the United States.
A study in the journal Pediatrics found that 8 percent of American children under 18 have at least one food allergy. Past estimates have been as low as 2 percent. More striking however, is that among those with food allergies, about 39 percent has a history of severe reaction and 30 percent were allergic to more than one food.
The most common food allergens are peanuts, milk and shellfish.
While the new pasta in Half Hollow Hills could help save a child from a severe reaction, the change will go mostly unnoticed. Scally said that the Barilla Plus pasta has very little taste difference as compared to the plain version.
The district has also responded to other growing trends among young people, including childhood obesity and diabetes.
School lunch options include fresh salads with low fat dressings, a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads, rolls, couscous and quinoa, vegetarian burgers, whole wheat breaded lean chicken patties and nuggets, fresh sandwich wraps, low fat beef and bean tacos, and “Healthy Choice” low fat and sodium snacks.