BURNT HILLS, N.Y. - The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Board of Education has voted to leave the National School Lunch Program starting in September due to "hungry, frustrated children plus lost income."
The decision, they say, was made as a result of problems with the new lunch regulations that took effect September 2012 in the National School Lunch Program. In a release they say, "You can offer nutritious, healthy foods, but you can't make kids eat them or like them."
The board says they feel the district's food service manager could do a better job of providing lunches in the district's five schools if she were no longer burdened with the regulations that come with participation in the National School Lunch Program.
"There were just too many problems and too many foods that students did not like and would not purchase," Assistant Superintendent Chris Abdoo said.
Abdoo says the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake lunch program lost around $100,000 last school year. He says sales declined especially in the high school where "students felt they weren't getting good value for their money" and more students would bring their lunch from home.
Abdoo believes most parents will be pleased with the change, and pleased to see the return of some favorite food items and some larger portion sizes in September.
Parents will have 60 days to share their comments with the district before the change takes effect with the opening of school in September.
Schools are not required to participate in the NSLP, but most schools do in order to receive financial incentives, including low cost federal commodity foods and partial reimbursement of the cost of food served to students who qualify for free and reduced priced meals.
BH-BL will continue to offer free lunches and reduced price lunches for students whose families meet the federal income guidelines for these.
The price for complete lunches will increase by 25 cents in September since prices have not increased in two years, the district says. A complete lunch including milk will now cost $2.50 for elementary students, $3.00 for secondary students (whose portion sizes are larger), and $4.00 for adults.
The food service manager Nicky Boehm says the district will still offer healthy options that fall within the calorie guidelines, similar to what was required under the national program, but that more students will actually purchase and eat. Boehm says they look forward to no longer being forced to plan each week's menus to fit into a rigid set of regulations regarding specific types and serving sizes of food.
"We'll offer five components that are much more appetizing in size and looks. I want to serve more fresh fruits and vegetables and less of the canned, commodity fruits and vegetables," Nicky Boehm says. "I want to return to some of the menus that students love, like different types of salads, wraps and sandwiches, especially at the high school. Taco salad is one of our kids' all-time favorites and it's so healthy, so why not offer it more often?"
The national lunch program required schools to serve students at least one-half cup of each of the five groups of vegetables (dark green, red/orange, dried beans/peas, "starchy," and "other" vegetables) at least once a week. And vegetables must be served alone in a separate cup rather than incorporated into a soup, salad or taco filling, Boehm says , in order to prove that the student was getting at least a half-cup serving. Boehm also ran into trouble with the rigidity of the protein and grain requirements. Elementary student lunches could contain no more than 10 ounces of the "protein" component per week.