School lunch menu to be healthier, yet its offerings mandatory

School board, district, concerned about waste of food and money in new state directives

— School lunches in Skaneateles for the 2012-13 school year will include more and bigger portions of healthy foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, while reducing and eliminating unhealthier foods from the menu. The problem, however, according to the school district lunch manager, is that New York is mandating that every student who buys lunch must take the foods offered on the menu — even if the student is not going to eat it.

This new mandate is a waste of food and money — by the district and by parents paying for their child’s uneaten lunch — and simultaneously does nothing to educate children as to why they should, and are being told to, eat healthy.

“As a nutritionist, I have a problem with a lot of things we do serve, [but] I don’t see [the new mandates] working,” Elaine Crysler, the district lunch program manager, told the school board at its July 2 meeting. “It’s kind of like an impossibility to achieve what they’re telling us to achieve.”

Crysler was at the BOE meeting to give the board an overview of the new state school lunch nutritional standards, which will begin implementation this fall.

New York state has long had a hand in school lunch nutritional requirements, with the most recent standards — the ones currently in use — coming out in 1998. Those standards said school lunches must offer foods from the four food groups, have certain amounts of whole grains, sodium, fruits and vegetables, but it offered lunch program managers leeway in what was offered in the cafeteria to achieve those results.

The difference now is “basically in the meal patterns,” Crysler told the Skaneateles Press. “Before we had some restrictions on things like sodium, calories, fat, and the state gave you the basic meal pattern. Now there are restrictions with specifics on servings.”

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