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MIDDLETON, Wi. – A federal program aimed at getting kids
to eat healthier snacks could force cuts in certain districts’ lunchrooms.
Susan Peterson is in charge of nutrition for the
Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District.
Peterson said the effects of the Smart Snacks In Schools program will
have a much greater impact on her lunch line and her bottom line.
Peterson estimated the changes will lead to a $100,000
structural deficit for the food services sector, thanks to the impact they will
have on her al a carte items.
“These programs are a rare opportunity to give kids a
look at what a balanced meal looks like 1608 with fruits and vegetables and
milk in an appropriate portion size for their age. But I can't provide that for them if I can't
keep them in my lunch line,” Peterson said.
Without that money, Peterson said she is forced to
consider raising lunch prices by at least a quarter. Lunch for high schoolers already costs $3.05,
one of the highest prices in the area, Peterson said.
Peterson is also looking into cut backs on meals and
“If we lose money and do not have a fund balance to cover
that, educational funds have to be diverted in order to bring the balance back
up to zero,” Peterson explained. “And in
an era of very tight educational funding, that is just not acceptable.”
Smart Snacks In Schools, which will be implemented July 1
across the country, is the latest change in school lunch guidelines under the
Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. It puts
even stricter limitations on the amount of sugar, salt, and calories a snack
item can have if it is sold in a cafeteria.
Peterson said subbing in recipes and pre-packaged food
available to her students is easier said than done. For instance, certain manufactured options
available now are greater than what will be allowable come next school
year. Peterson said smaller portion
sizes are not easy for those companies to accommodate quickly, and those are
some of her most popular items.
“I'm wondering if we don't need to slow the process down
so that we can allow the manufacturers to catch up, allow the retail sector to
begin to introduce healthier products for all of us so our palates adjust, and
not just rely on the school program to make a difference for kids,” Peterson
The changes will affect districts across the state and
across the country differently based on how they handle their finances and
their al a carte items.
Districts like DeForest and Sun Prairie have already
limited their al a carte items, and don’t allow their students to leave campus
for lunch. The head of nutrition in Sun
Prairie said food hasn’t been offered al a carte for about seven years, and the
new rules will have the greatest impact on the sizes of some of their
Other districts – like Waunakee and Wisconsin Heights –
chose to contract out their food services.
Wisconsin Heights’ superintendent said while his budget isn’t directly
affected, the company they hire to run the lunchrooms does have to follow
general USDA guidelines.
Peterson said she will work with other administrators to
come up with a plan and recommend it to the board and finance committee in the
next couple of weeks.
“It's not about politics.
It's not about money. It's about
kids,” Peterson said.
Thursday, March 13 2014, 09:54 PM CDT
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