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Lunch Prices To Increase For Spring-Ford

Spring-Ford's food service director explains the district's new meal program at the first board meeting of the year.

Lunch prices across the district will rise 30 cents this year due to changes being implemented under the new Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act. 

The rise in cost to parents offsets the increased costs for the district, who now must provide more fruits and vegetables as part of a school lunch.

The Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA) was signed into law in December 2010. These changes are the biggest reworking of nutritional rules in fifteen years.

Healthy eating has been a major focus of First Lady Michelle Obama's work through her "Let's Move!" initiative.

According to food service director Paula Germinario, many of the new rules for the program have only been released in the last month and a half.

Many of the changes involve the nutritional content of school lunches. In the past, Germinario said, schools had to offer a choice of three of five categories of food: grain, fruit, dairy, protein and vegetables.

Spring-Ford, along with many other districts, previously used a "offer vs. serve" model of providing food.

"In the past, they could choose all five [categories] if they wanted all five, but they could also choose three of the five," Germinario said. "So if there was something they weren't really thrilled with, they didn't have to take it."

"Pizza and a milk would be considered a meal because your cheese would be your protein, your crust would be your grain, and your milk would be your dairy," Germinario explained. 

Now, under HHFKA, one of those three things must be fruit or vegetables.

"This is a big change," said superintendent Dr. David Goodin. "The fruit or the vegetable has to be on the plate, even if they throw it away."

The challenge, Goodin said, is in educating parents and students about what will be served and why.

Germinario said that official communications will be going out this week to explain the new rules to parents.

The idea of Spring-Ford students being required to take a fruit or vegetable that they might then throw away provoked reactions from several board members.

Board member Mark Dehnert said that it is the "personal responsibility [of parents], not government responsibility, to determine what your child eats."

"It's a great intention if I through for a minute it would solve the problems [of poor health]," agreed board member Bernard Pettit. "You're taking away the rights of the parents to decide what their kids eat."

Other board members expressed concerned about the amount of food that would potentially be wasted by kids throwing away fruits and vegetables or other foods that they are required to take but do not want to eat.

"Are they going to monitor how much of this meal that's on the plate is being tossed then?" asked board member Dawn Heine. "As a parent who has three kids in the district, it's alarming. The amount of food that gets tossed now is overwhelming."

However, students will have an a la carte option that will be slightly less expensive, about ten to fifteen cents lower, which will allow them to choose three of the five categories of food. 

If a student chooses to eat a la carte, Germinario said, they would not be required to take the fruit and vegetable included with the full lunch.

The downside to that for the school district is financial, as they do not receive the government reimbursement for a la carte meals.

Board member Edward Dressler asked student representative Elizabeth Brady if she had any thoughts on the requirements. 

"Sitting in the cafeteria, seeing what people do eat and what they throw away, it seems that a la carte will be the more popular option," Brady said.

momto2chapines August 21, 2012 at 11:29 AM
I'm excited to see this moving in the right direction. It isn't going far enough in my opinion, however. I'd like to see "healthy eating" specifically included in the curriculum, so the kids (especially in the lower grades) are encouraged to make healthy choices for a lifetime. In fact, I'd like to see the schools plant gardens too, as kids are more likely to eat fruits and veggies they are responsible for tending. Many schools around the country are already doing this. S-F is behind the curve!
Karen Moran August 21, 2012 at 11:44 AM
Is there a salad bar at the school? If there isn't, there should at least be that choice. I know that my kids would eat that and not waste it before they would even consider a random apple or steamed overcooked broccoli--- And - yes momto2chapines-- you are prob.right -- they also need to use something like www.myschoolaccount.com so we can better monitor the food purchases (more precise than skyward) and put money on their accounts from home----
momto2chapines August 21, 2012 at 11:50 AM
I actually am a mean mom...I only let my kids buy school lunches once a month (which they totally look forward to), because its such unhealthy overly processed junk, and you're right, Karen, very difficult to monitor. I give my son cash on that day only, so he has enough to buy one meal (no seconds or snacks) only. Otherwise, like most kids, he will choose what he sees his friends eating. I love the salad bar idea. My kids would also choose that!
Karen Moran August 21, 2012 at 12:01 PM
Don't feel bad - I'm a mean mom too- I can't see what the kids eat so I rarely have "junk" in the house to offset what ever "junk" they buy at school. They do not like bagged lunches.. When they were in another school district they had a salad bar and we used that myschoolaccount.com-- It was great -- I knew exactly what they bought and they never ran out of $$ ---
Alice Beavers Dake August 21, 2012 at 12:40 PM
I find it interesting that the board members responses make reference to parental rights and responsibilities (sounds like political rhetoric and talking points to me). Since the district is already providing meals at a cost (to families) I am not sure how providing more fruits and vegetables in that meal somehow infringes on my rights. If I want/need complete control over what my children eat, I have the option of packing their lunches however, if I am paying for a meal they purchase at school I want the reassurance that they are being offered a balanced meal- and if paying an extra $.30 gives me that, I will gladly pay it. And a salad bar sounds like a great idea. More meatless meals would also be wonderful.
momto2chapines August 21, 2012 at 12:44 PM
I don't feel bad at all, actually, Karen. Its my job as a parent :) Alice, I agree with you completely!
Karen Moran August 21, 2012 at 12:48 PM
Me too Alice-
Jayne Wills Oyler August 21, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Possibly a step in the right direction, as long as it means fresh fruits and veggies instead of canned. One of the main issues I have with the district lunch program however, is that children as young as elementary school are allowed to purchase two entrees if they so choose. Hasn't anyone ever heard of portion control? With the obesity problem we have in the U.S., this is counterintuitive. That option needs to be cut - maybe if the kids knew they could only get one processed chicken patty sandwich instead if two, maybe they would eat that apple on their tray instead of trashing it. Personally, I would love to see school lunches a la Jamie Oliver at Spring Ford and schools across the country. Maybe then, I would allow my daughter to purchase school lunch more often than once a week.
Jamie Moretz August 21, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Last year was my first experience with school lunch. And after a full year, I still don't think my now second-grader understands what actually comes with the lunch. For the first few weeks, she reached for water instead of milk (a valid choice in Kindergarten) only for us to find out it was an extra charge. Then there was the problem of what was included in lunch - if she had a salad, carrot sticks were an extra charge. If she wanted spaghetti without sauce, could she get cheese? And don't even get me started about their "snack" items. I'm not sure this new system will solve any of my problems. In fact I'm not sure if anyone else even recognizes these problems. But with school quickly approaching, I know my child will be packing more than ever, if only to ensure she get what she wants without it costing a fortune. ($2.65 for PB &J plus milk - ridiculous!)
SF Parent August 21, 2012 at 02:29 PM
A fortune? I don't know how anyone packs a healthy lunch for less then $4-5--I certainly cannot. I think the school lunches are very inexpensive BUT I do wish they were more nutrious. My high school age child will not eat the school lunches--b/c they are so bad--both in quality and nutrition value. I'd gladly pay more money for healthier, more appealing options.
norm coyne August 21, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Portion control should start at home and not be expected of the schools to monitor. If healthy choices and portion control is taught and enforced at home the obesity problem could be resolved. Portion and snack control can be set up for each child through the lunch program, do not expect the each school to monitor and set guidelines for your child if you do not.
jackaroe August 21, 2012 at 03:32 PM
last year was amazing because they started to offer vegetarian selections which consisted of pizza and pizza sticks... excited for my daughter to possibly have more of selection and not pack her lunch if she doesn't want to. healthy eating comes from home but its a great second best for kids who aren't taught at home how to eat healthy. no reason a child should be eating 600 calorie lunches made of complete sodium.
Bill Mason August 21, 2012 at 04:12 PM
I work for a local retailer that sells a huge number of lunch boxes. It's evident that parents are sending their kids to school with healthy meals instead of the fodder the schools provide.
Jayne Wills Oyler August 21, 2012 at 04:17 PM
With all due respect Norm, I absolutely do set guidelines for my children and take offense at the assumption that I do not. I stand behind my statement that there really is no reason to allow kids in our school population to eat two sandwiches/entrees at lunch, unless there is a medical reason (such as underweight). I think allowing the purchase of two entrees sends a mixed message. In one ear they're hearing, eat healthy, no classroom treats for birthdays, etc., but in the other ear, they're hearing "here you go, have another cheeseburger!" And I am fully aware of the snack limitation form, but doesn't that alienate the child? It is just rubbing salt into the wound. I do teach portion control at home, but as most of us know, kids will make their own choices, so I cannot reinforce it when they are at school. My children pack their lunches 9 out of 10 days anyway, but I think it is important for all kids, not just my own.
Diane Moore August 21, 2012 at 04:55 PM
My kids pack their lunches 95% of the time, and we are defnitely not spending $4-5 a lunch! They take salad, fresh veggies, fruit, and water. Snack is typically something like hummus and crackers or a homemade muffin. I haven't seen this years menu, but when previous menus included mozarella sticks as an entree, I would much prefer they pack their lunch. BTW - why is a bottle of water $1 at school??? I have viewed an elementary lunch session too - I've seen many, many kids ordering 2 entrees and eating only the burgers, throwing out the rest, and then going and getting a desert too.
nicurnbsn August 21, 2012 at 05:19 PM
I am so glad to see that the "required fruit/vegetable will be tossed if not eaten off the tray. Really??? What an utter waste of supposedly nutritious food that could be taken to the local food pantry and given to someone who could appreciate it. We might as well just flush our school taxes, etc right down the toilet. Who is in charge of all this anyway???? Are there any dieticians involved in this decision-making? And I really like how there is NO parental input whatsoever.
momto2chapines August 21, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Ok, this is clearly anecdotal and based only on this small sample of parents, but it is very interesting how the parent comments are in support of healthier school lunches (and would like to see it go beyond these latest improvements) and the folks against them are members of the school board. Things that make you go, hmmmmm.
Sue Jones Sparhawk August 22, 2012 at 10:10 PM
If you are trying to teach your child the value of portion control, then they shouldn't feel alienated or embarrassed for purchasing one entree.
Dianne August 24, 2012 at 01:31 AM
why don't they do away with the little debbie snack cakes, the twix candy bars, the homemade chocolate chip cookies, fruit roll ups, ice cream, strawberry milk, chocolate milk and chips. This would make for better choices by the kids, many of them would be packing. Don't get me started on how the kids can get extra entree's either. And did you know that if your child chooses not to get the 8 oz milk but instead gets the 8oz carton of lemonade they have to pay extra for it because it is not included in the lunch, only milk is included. You can add money to the childs account with a credit card at home. I agree they need to start sending papers back through the mail or students, not everyone has a computer and can check what their child is purchasing.
Sue Jones Sparhawk August 24, 2012 at 09:16 PM
After reviewing the lunch menu for elementary school lunches, they are offering fresh fruits and veggies everyday. All whole wheat bread products, all low fat milk. Less breaded products, and what product may b breaded are whole wheat. Children need to be encouraged by their parents to make sure they put a fruit and/or veggie on their tray whenever they buy. And emphasise the importance of eating them. This has to b taught at home.

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