CANTON, N.Y. – An upstate New York school district is the latest to voice its concerns about the “healthy” changes to the National School Lunch Program.
“We throw away a ton of food,” Canton Central School Food Service Director Ella Mae “Bluejay” Fenlong tells the Watertown Daily Times.
“If we cut up 20 pounds of cucumbers, we guess that 17 pounds get thrown away. I’ve watched kids take their cup of vegetables or fruit they’re required to take and just throw it away.”
That’s an astounding 85 percent of the cucumbers going right into the trash.
The school district saw student participation drop about 11 percent in a single academic year, largely because of what’s served and how much.
“The portion sizes are a big issue. They are smaller now, even the main course,” Fenlong says.
For example, a kindergartner is served five chicken nuggets while a high schooler is served seven – or five nuggets and a roll.
“A football player isn’t getting full on seven chicken nuggets, and a lot of our students who play sports are here till 6:30 p.m.,” according to the food service director. “The kids can buy extra food, but a lot of kids can’t afford to.”
According to Canton Central business manager Judy Rienback, participation has fallen from about 58 percent to about 47 percent. That’s a double-whammy.
“Our purchase costs haven’t fallen. What we serve now tends to cost more,” Rienback tells the paper. “Yes, it has hurt us. Less people participate and healthy foods cost more.”
Meanwhile, Dalton, Georgia schools held a recipe contest in its second grade classrooms – for cauliflower.
“The students weren’t eating enough cauliflower,” says second-grader Avery Simpson, the Daily Citizen reports. “We’re trying to make it better so more people will eat it.”
Among the variations include: cauliflower nachos, cauliflower tots, mashed “potatoes” made with cauliflower, cauliflower soup and cauliflower cheesy bread sticks.
“They really ate it,” says teacher Katy Stacy.
“They’ve certainly gained new knowledge on the importance of cauliflower. Now they think ‘Maybe I can eat it. Maybe it’s not what I thought it was.’”
“They’ve been able to see the vegetable in a different form,” Wimberly Brackett, director of school nutrition for Dalton Public Schools, tells the paper. “And that’s really important.”
There’s a larger purpose to sampling cauliflower nachos.
“Whatever they do at school, they take home,” according to parent volunteer Carmen Flammini. “They will eventually change the culture at home. It’s a powerful thing.”