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The Telegram
  • School lunch changes unpopular with students

  • After 30 years of food service, Barbara Cristman said she has seen several health initiatives enacted on school cafeterias.

    However, according to her and other school officials, the most recent set of federal standards for school lunch and breakfast programs has been one of the most challenging for cafeterias to adapt to, and for students to embrace.

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  • After 30 years of food service, Barbara Cristman said she has seen several health initiatives enacted on school cafeterias.
    However, according to her and other school officials, the most recent set of federal standards for school lunch and breakfast programs has been one of the most challenging for cafeterias to adapt to, and for students to embrace.
    “We have a lot of new items on the menu. Some are getting a great reception, while others are getting not such a great reception,” said Cristman, food service manager at Ilion Senior High School.
    She said, for example, she served zucchini as the vegetable one day for lunch.
    “A great percentage of them turned up their nose and they really didn’t want it,” she said. “We’ll have to go back to the drawing board.”
    Schools are required now, under the new guidelines, to provide 3/4 cup to one cup of vegetables plus 1/2 cup to one cup of fruit per day. This is an increase from the previous regulations which required 1/2 to 3/4 cup of fruits and vegetables combined per day.
    Some of the other changes include two ounces of meat or a meat alternate served daily for high school students, and two ounces of grains served daily for high school students. There is a weekly requirement of a variety of vegetables to be served during the week, including dark green vegetables, red or orange vegetables and beans or peas. Also the one cup of milk that is served now must be fat-free — either flavored or unflavored — or one percent low fat unflavored.
    “The school lunches influenced me to start bringing in my lunch,” said Drew Vilardi, on Friday, during his lunch break. Among some of his complaints was the “horrid” whole wheat pasta and the one percent or fat free milk.
    So now he brings in his own lunch, which he said normally consists of two peanut-butter sandwiches, a bag of chips, water and some kind of snack. “And I’m not hungry at the end of the day,” he said.
    According to a news release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the meal requirements are a key component of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was championed by First Lady Michelle Obama, as part of her Let’s Move! campaign and signed into law by President Obama.
    “I fear one size does not fit all,” said Herkimer Board of Education President John Cipriano. “What really worries me is the calorie restriction. We all worry about our children being overweight. It’s a problem in our society today, but I worry about the athletes who rely on that lunch meal to get them through practice or game until they get home for dinner.”
    Cipriano, who said he has heard of students complaining about being hungry after lunch, also said, “I do think calorie restrictions being applied to every student, somewhere along the line it’s going to fall short.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Interim Mohawk Central School Superintendent Gene Beirne said the school board discussed the topic at their recent board meeting. “[A parent said] they want peanut butter sandwiches and pizza because that’s all their kids will eat,” he said.
    Ilion Central School ninth-graders Andrew Brasie and Kamryn Perez are among those who feel the new lunches do not serve enough to eat.
    “When I get home, I eat because I’m hungry,” said Brasie.
    Ilion Central School Tenth-grader Brandy Torres said she’s “not much of a breakfast person.”
    So often the first meal of the day she has is the lunch served at the school, which on Friday included two hot dogs, a fruit cup and fat-free chocolate milk.
    “It’s not enough. I hear my stomach, sometimes, growling,” she said.
    Torres — who sometimes stays late at school for softball or Spanish club — said, “Then I get home and eat whatever I find.”
    Some students, as pointed out by Ilion High School Principal Renee Rudd, aren’t able to eat whatever they want when they get home.
    “A number of our students are on the free and reduced lunch programs. In order for them to eat, they have to have the lunch here. They’re not going to have the money to go out and eat something else. There’s children really relying on our meals,” she said.
    Rudd also said, “I’m concerned about being able to provide the students with what they need to sustain themselves throughout the day.”
    Torres also said though students are required to pick up the fruits and vegetables as part of their meal, she said it doesn’t necessarily get eaten. “It’s a waste of food and money,” she said.
    Cristman said that her cafeteria normally serves about 400 lunches to high school students, but that number has decreased over the past few days. She said she plans to distribute surveys to the students in October to get a better idea of what they will like while trying to stay within the guidelines.
    “I do everything I can do to make adjustments so they’ll be happy at meal time,” she said.
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