Proposed School Lunch Changes Upsets District
November 30, 2011, 10:11 PM
In an effort to make school lunches healthier, the United States Department of Agriculture is proposing widespread changes to go into effect in 2014.
But one local school district agrees that school lunches need to be healthy, administrators argue the proposals go too far and cost too much.
Nearly all of the 350 students eat school lunch every day, and Elementary Principal Faith Stratton says they strive to provide healthy options.
Earlier this year, the Agriculture Department proposed new, stricter school lunch standards that would turn the lunchroom upside down.
"If congress does what they're advocating, it would ruin our food services program," Stratton said.
The proposed regulations are aimed at trimming obesity and future healthcare costs. But Chester Area School Superintendent Mark Greguson argues the USDA's proposals go too far for schools on tight budgets.
"Is obesity a problem in our nation? Yes. Does it come from lunchroom food? Absolutely not," Greguson said.
Greguson says the broad regulations don't suit small districts like Chester.
It would also limit starchy vegetables including corn and potatoes to two servings per week instead of two servings a day. The starches would be switched with less common vegetables.
"The chick peas, the sweet potatoes and the okra are all three things they would like us to serve our students. We don't even have that available to us and as an adult, I've never eaten okra. Not that I wouldn't try it but for kids to, that would be really tough. We are still trying to get them used to peas and green beans," Stratton said.
Even if they do serve the new food, that doesn't mean kids would actually eat it. Something the district saw when they tried switching to whole wheat breads.
"We saw more buns in the garbage than we saw on the plates," Stratton said. "So it was a total disaster."
Now the district serves a blend of whole wheat and white flour buns. But eating healthier doesn't come cheap.
"The difference between whole wheat flour and white flour, there is a $10 to $15 difference on a 50 pound bag of flour. And where we make our own buns everyday, that is a huge difference for us," Stratton said.
Students on the other hand, aren't shying away from the proposed new foods.
"With the change it would definitely take some getting used to. But over time if one kid tires it, then maybe their friends will catch onto it. Eventually, I think it will all work out. It might just take some time," Callie Baumberger said.
"I think they will welcome it. I think over time I think they will get used to it. Maybe start liking it more," Kenneth Shaffner said.
There is already lobbying from schools and farmers from across the nation are challenging the proposed regulations and the Chester Area School hopes there will be significant changes before they are forced to comply.
"But the biggest thing is, I hope they let us decide what's best for our own school districts or our own states at least and not try to make one size fit all. It just can't work," Greguson said.
One small school district doing its best to feed its student's healthy food, hoping the federal government doesn't tell them they are doing it wrong.
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