Go back through the line! New strict rules for school lunches

The new school year means new USDA regulations for school lunches, and the guidelines are more strict than you may think.

The changes made to this year's school menu include a calorie intake model all schools must follow.

Children in K-5 grades have a lunch calorie range of 550 to 650.

Grades six through eight are in the 600 to 700 range, and ninth through twelfth grades range from 750 to 850.

In years past, all grades had a range of 785 calories or above.

For the first time in 17 years, the federal government agency is these making changes to school menus and food choices to fight childhood obesity.

Another change is that students are required to have at least a half a cup of fruits or vegetables to create a complete meal.

If student don't, cafeteria workers send the kids back through the line.

"When the children come through to the cashier, the cashier has to make sure that they have a minimum of a half a cup of fruit or a half a cup of vegetables on their plates," said Horry County Schools Food Services Director Laura Farmer.

In the lunches, you'll see more than half of the grains offered to be whole grains.

But Farmer said what you'll start to see less of is sodium.

"Within ten years, we're required to get the salt down to a quarter of a teaspoon that we use in our menu for lunch and that includes the foods that salt naturally occurs in," said Farmer.

Farmer said the county saw the writing on the wall and slowly started introducing some of these changes years ago.

But the new regulations are giving workers more responsibility than ever, especially at schools like Black Water Middle where five cafeteria workers feed nearly 700 children daily.

"It has been a little bit of a learning curve for them with the portion sizes and to make sure the children have it on their tray."

Farmer admits this new menu still has a long way to go in the fight against childhood obesity.

One instance many may disagree with is that french fries are still considered a vegetable.