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School lunch menu to be healthier, yet its offerings mandatory

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

— But the mandate that students must take certain foods on their tray whether they plan to eat it or throw it away, and the elimination of the less healthy but more popular foods from the menu will have ramifications on the school lunch program in terms of cost issues and food waste — and that will be the most difficult aspect to the changes for Skaneateles.

For example, because of the new mandates, the high school cafeteria will no longer offer pizza, burgers and french fries every day for lunch, nor will the elementary school offer peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day, Crysler said. These are the biggest sellers in the lunch program, and without them the program will lose a lot of customers and money, she said.

She said a major flaw in the program is the lack of nutrition education — the state is telling the kids what to eat, but not educating them on how to eat and why it is important to eat healthy foods.

“It’s in the curriculum to teach nutrition … but it needs to somehow be connected to the cafeteria and what children get to choose,” Crysler said.

Board of education members were particularly concerned about the anticipated waste of food the new mandates will create. BOE member Thomas Lambdin said he “hate[d] to see such waste,” and asked the Crysler if there would be a way to consult with local farmers and gardeners and create a composting program. She said it is “a possibility,” as is the idea of creating a school garden to help cut down food costs.

Board president Evan Dreyfuss asked how this would affect the school lunch program budget, which is separate from the district budget. “I think [in the end] it will cost us a little more per meal per child,” Crysler responded.

“Maybe we’ll be mildly surprised. We’ve made other changes I was surprised by. After it becomes the norm, maybe it will be all right,” she said.

Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached editor@skaneatelespress.com.

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