Students saying 'Yuck' to nutrition guidelines

The new federal and state nutrition standards implemented in 2012 were designed to cut down on students’ waistlines in the long term, but in the short term they are cutting into the bottom line of the New Richmond Exempted Village School District’s food service.

NREVSD food service director Brenda Young has estimated to the Board of Education that student rejection of federal and state mandates that 51 percent of all grains offered in cafeterias to be whole grain rich and that all food trays must contain a fruit or vegetable will result in a 56,500 fewer meals being served in district cafeterias this school year.

NREVSD food service workers (from left) Amy Day, Narcissa Castell and Cristy Behler hold  buns containing whole grains  that are contributing to students buying fewer cafeteria meals.

NREVSD chief financial officer Teresa S. Napier the decline in meals served will result in the NREVSD losing $131,300 this school year. Total cost of services this school year is $1.036 million with projected revenue of $905,000. The previous school year totals were $1,109,500 million in total cost of services versus $1,030,900 in program revenue for a two-year loss of $209,900.

An example of a new healthier lunch would be a whole-wheat cheese pizza, baked sweet potato fries, raw grape tomatoes, low-fat ranch dip, applesauce and low-fat milk. These healthier meals are getting a collective ‘yuk’ from students.

“When you can’t get kids to eat pizza you know you have a problem,” said Young, whose mid-year report to the Board of Education showed district cafeterias serving 200,495 lunches during the first half of the school year compared to 228,787 served in 2012.

Schools are permitted to opt out of the school lunch program but those that do lose federal reimbursements which can be as high as $2.93 per free lunch served and $2.53 per reduced lunch served. New Richmond will serve an estimated 243,000 free and 27,000 reduced lunches this school year, so opting out is not an option.

New Richmond students are the only ones saying no to the federal nutrition guidelines.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that Ohio public schools served 9 million fewer meals during the first half of 2013-2014.

District cafeterias are having trouble giving lunches away as free lunches served has declined by 10,241 from 2012 and reduced lunches by 4379. Some of the change is attributed to the NREVSD’s percentage of students qualifying for free or reduced lunches dropping from 46 to 39 percent, but the big reason is more brown bags coming into the cafeterias.

 “Kids are bringing in the foods that we are not allowed to serve,” said Young.

The big culprit is the whole grain requirement.

NREVSD cafeterias will serve 56,000 fewer meals this year as students are saying a collective 'Yuk' to the new federal nutrition guidelines which require more whole grains. (pictured are NREVSD food service workers Bonnie Caudill and Cristy Behler).

“The kids are OK with the whole grain spaghetti but it’s being covered by (meatless) sauce,” said Young. “Even the chicken nuggets and chicken strips must have whole grain coating and that changes the taste. But when it comes to a crust like pizza or the breakfast pizza, there’s a big difference in the taste and the kids don’t like it.”

Mac and cheese, a traditional favorite with kids, is becoming a tough sell.

“The whole grain macaroni is darker and looks dirty and the kids think there’s something wrong with it,” said Young.

Young’s department closely monitors and charts what is being eaten and what gets left on trays.

“We have to have either a fruit or a vegetable on the tray, so when we’re serving a vegetable we know the majority doesn’t like we will put the fruit on the tray that day,” said Young. “They still have the option of picking the vegetable.”

An interesting result of the surveys is that New Richmond students prefer broccoli over sweet potato fries.

“Preferences will vary from building to building,” said Young. “Students at one building will grab raw vegetables (which must be made available daily) and they won’t be touched at another building.”

Young doesn’t see any improvement next year.

“Next year’s rules will require 100 percent whole grains along with a phase out of sodium,” said Young.

Students on Free/Reduced Lunch
PS     15    
K 24 28 33    
1 10 23 42    
2 24 17 35    
3 18 18 33    
4 21 24 41    
5 16 27 40    
6 23 24 36    
7       79  
8       82  
9         73
10         70
11         60
12         48
Total # 136 161 275 161 251

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