School systems across the country have the unique challenge to offer students food they'll eat and meet their nutrition budgets.
Here in our region, it's no different and although it's hard to balance the county's school nutrition budget, those in charge of feeding the students say it's a challenge they're willing to accept.
Rhonda Huffman oversees Nutrition Services for Roanoke County Public Schools
"One entree, one milk, two fruits and two vegetables."
That's what a typical school lunch consists of in Roanoke County, which is in line with the federal push for healthier food options.
"The nutrition guidelines have changed over the last several years. We're now offering fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, whole grain products as well."
But those healthier alternatives come at a higher price.
"With those added items to our menu, it does increase the price factor a lot," said Huffman.
Increases the nutrition budget by 20-30 percent a year says Huffman. With childhood obesity on the rise, school leaders say they have a responsibility to the students and look for ways to cut costs.
"When we can work with our vendors to get the product in here that's not going to cost us anymore money but be more appealing to the students," Huffman told Your Hometown News Leader.
If the students don't like what's served, the county loses out.
"Without the participation, then that's where our financial problems will come into place."
Roanoke County has about 5.8 million dollars yearly to feed thousands of students. Here's the challenge: adhering to government guidelines, inuring higher costs and offering appealing food.
"When you go to a restaurant, you eat with your eyes so to speak. Students do the same way. Our students are very savvy." "We do what we need to do to make sure that the children are taken care of because ultimately, they are our first priority," Huffman told WDBJ7.
Among the federal mandates starting next school year, lower sodium levels, more whole grains and healthier snacks.