New regs mean new food at BC

Schools required to offer healthier menus this coming year

— The size of pizza slices has been cut nearly in half and the number of chicken nugget a student gets with each meal will be reduced from six to three. Bethlehem Central had already begun to implement some of the changes several years ago by switching to whole grains and doing away with canned produce, but now those practices are mandatory. The changes will be easier for some districts than others.

“For the schools who were already being progressive about things and doing the right things using local farmers, that’s what the program is easing into, but this is basically … almost too stringent for the schools that can’t afford it,” said Franchini.

The bottom line

What remains to be seen is whether fewer students will purchase lunch in school under the new guidelines. For the most part, the new regulations are intended to help those in elementary school form better eating habits.

Those habits can have a fiscal impact on school districts. Food service programs in schools have to be self-maintaining and often receive little government funding.

BCSD receives 27 cents for every meal served per student from the federal government and 0.0023 cents from the state for every non-reduced meal, according to BC Chief Business and Financial Officer Judith Kehoe. Breakfast costs $2 for all students and lunch costs $3 for elementary students and $3.25 for those in the middle and high schools. District officials said only 3 to 4 percent of BC students qualify for free or reduced lunches.

Kehoe said the there was surplus of about $7,000 for the 2010-2011 school year after meal prices were increased. This money was rolled over to the next year, but is now gone after the department operated at a loss last school year.

“In the past, if food services did not have sufficient resources we would help cover those costs with a transfer from the general fund, but the general fund has its own share of constraints so we have been trying not to do those transfers,” said Kehoe.

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