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KC plays big role in shaping nation's school lunches

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

Thousands of people are filling a Kansas City convention center this week to improve nutrition in children's schools.

More than 7,000 school nutrition professionals from across the country are gathering at Bartle Hall for the School Nutrition Association's 67th Annual National Conference.

The members, including nutrition directors, cafeteria managers and employees, will be in town through Wednesday to share new ways to increase healthy foods served in school lunch rooms.

The hope is to make pizza, Chinese food, juices and other foods have less sodium, calories, sugars and fats.

"We don't tell the children that it's healthy," said Marilyn Moody, an association board member. "That way the calories are reduced, the sodium is reduced and the children don't know it."

Of course, the trick is to make it tasty too.

Those at the conference will sample school foods from hundreds of vendors. This is the first time Kansas City has hosted this annual national conference.

They will also take part in educational sessions and share program successes with school nutrition professionals from across the country.

A big focus is going to be the USDA national nutrition standards for breakfast and lunch, which increase whole grains and more fruits and veggies, while limiting calories and fat.

The School Nutrition Association is a national nonprofit. Its goal is to provide high-quality, low-cost, nutritious meals to students across the country.

Last year, the federal government changed menus for when children order a full meal. The USDA is working on regulations for a la carte items. This includes vending machine items.

But meeting federal guidelines means recipes and packaging are changed, which are expensive.

Altogether, 39 states regulate vending machine and a la carte foods, but Missouri does not. Kansas has minimal standards.

KCTV5's Bonyen Lee and DeAnn Smith contributed to this report.

Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.)  All rights reserved.

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