Watson Chapel students slow to adjust to new school menus


Children in the Watson Chapel School District are having a hard time adjusting to new federally mandated nutrition guidelines according to food service director Schaun Brown, who presented a report to the district board of directors during its regular monthly meeting Monday night.

Brown said the new requirements are part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 ,which was signed into law by President Obama in December 2010, and is the first update to school meal standards in more than 15 years.

“The new requirements are part of the government’s plan to lower the rate of childhood obesity,” Brown said. “While it’s not the schools that are the primary drivers of student obesity the government is using the schools to do something to deal with the issue.”

Brown said the reasoning behind some of the requirements can be hard to understand, including portion sizes among the different grade levels.

“Schools are required to give the same amount of food to kindergartners as is given to eighth-graders,” Brown said. “The elementary school principals have said that their kids were amazed at the amount of food they were being given this year. Kids aren’t eating what we have to give them due to the portion sizes and to the types of food. Edgewood had to get another garbage can to throw it all away.”

Brown said many of the foods the district is required to provide to students are items that many of the children have no experience with and so don’t want to try.

“An administrator in Monticello told me that some of their kids had never seen whole wheat buns before and wouldn’t eat them because they thought the whole wheat was dirt,” Brown said. “We are required to serve romaine lettuce, which is expensive, and most of it ends up in the trash. We had sweet potato fries but the kids wouldn’t eat them. We are spending a lot on produce that is largely getting thrown away.”

Brown said the district is beginning to implement a new way to give students enough to eat while at the same time eliminating as much waste as possible.

“We have begun what is called offer versus serve at L.L. Owen,” Brown said. “As long as students take three portions per meal that is reimbursable by the government. So, instead of preparing salads for all 400 students they will prepare 50 salads and tell the kids that they can have one if they will eat it but if they don’t want it they don’t have to get it.”

Board member Maxine Nelson asked if any effort had been made by the district to educate district parents about the menu changes and Brown said she had sent out an information sheet stating that the menus are different.

“If you’re asking whether there have been any meetings for parents about this, no there haven’t been,” Brown said.

District superintendent Danny Hazelwood said the changes to the menus would take some getting used to by the students.

Brown said the new requirements are also a challenge to the administrators and food service staff.

“All of this has been given to us so quickly that we are overwhelmed,” Brown said. “The paperwork required to comply with the new requirements is double what we had before.”

New business

In other business the board unanimously approved the expulsion of a female Watson Chapel Junior High School student for the remainder of the fall semester for violent behavior and insubordination toward a school employee.

The board unanimously approved the district minority recruitment plan for the 2012-2013 school year.

“Every district with a minority population of more than 10 percent is required to approve a minority recruitment plan for instructors and administrators,” Hazelwood said before the vote.

Personnel

The board unanimously approved the hiring of George Jones as a bus mechanic; Julie Stroud as a cafeteria worker; and Tonya Hollien and Flora Miller as substitute cafeteria workers.

Hazelwood informed the board that he accepted the resignation of Shannon Robinson.

Miscellaneous

The board unanimously approved officers for the 2012-2013 school year, including Sandra C. Boone as board president, Robin Barker as board vice president and Keith Waddle as board secretary.

The board approved the September financial report as presented by Hazelwood that included revenue of $1,983,607; expenses of $2,216,177; and an ending balance of $6,821,327.