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Springville-GI food service provider unveils changes to meals

SPRINGVILLE — The Springville-GI Board of Education heard a presentation from Chris Mangio, a representative from Sodexo, its food provider, during its meeting held Jan. 29.

The representative provided the board with an update about the school’s food service program. According to School Superintendent Paul Connelly, that program is not breaking even, for the first time in school history.

Per the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, most schools must now increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free and low-fat, fluid milk, in their meals. They must also begin reducing the amount of contributors such as sodium and saturated fats.

Mangio detailed some of the changes issued to schools. Beginning this year, students on the free and reduced lunch program must take at least a half a cup of fruit or vegetable, every meal, to be eligible for the program. By 2014, 100 percent of products must be whole-grain rich. Schools will no longer be required to offer a meat or meat alternative at breakfast. No milk higher than 1 percent may be offered.

Sodium levels on all products have been placed on a 10-year reduction timeline. While school meals may currently include 1,500 milligrams of sodium, that number must drop to 750 milligrams, by 2022-23. “This will change the face of the school free lunch program,” Mangio said.

Schools are also limited in several per-week offerings. For example, Sodexo may offer between eight and nine servings of grain, no more and no less, per week. “That is hitting hard, especially at the high school,” Mangio said, explaining that the school can no longer offer sandwiches, for example, several times, per week. “And we can’t have filler sides, such as noodles or rice,” she said.

While sugar is not currently restricted, schools are not allowed to offer products with added sugar. Desserts are not provided, on the free and reduced lunch menu, but may be purchased by students, from the a la carte offerings or from vending machines.

Board President Mel Williams said that he would prefer to have no desserts sold, anywhere in the school. “Just walk down our halls,” he said. “We have a lot of fat kids.”

Mangio pointed out that there is no restriction on what students may bring to school with them, in their bag lunches. In addition, “there are no regulations on food sales, yet,” she said, “or on concessions.”

Sodexo has reported a drop in students’ taking advantage of the reimbursable lunch program. “It’s happening because kids are not happy with the meals they’re getting,” Mangio said. She also said that she believed food waste increased, following the new restrictions. “It’s hard to give kids the foods they want and like,” she said.

Sodexo is considering re-engineering its menus and possibly putting favored a la carte menu offerings onto the reimbursable lunch menu.

Board Member Kara Kane asked if the food service company could utilize interns to survey students to see if they like the food offerings and if they are still hungry, after breakfast and lunch. “According to the USDA, kids should eat all of the components offered and then, if they’re still hungry, they can buy more,” Mangio said. “If they have money,” Kane pointed out.

Business Official Ted Welch said that, prior to the new standards, he received very few protests from parents about the lunch program, but that he has already received approximately 50 complaints, about the issue, this school year.

The board also heard a report from Welch on the budget process. More information about that report will be printed in an upcoming edition of the Springville Journal.

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