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Nazareth Superintendent: School Lunches Going to Waste is 'Sinful'

The amount of fruit and vegetables being wasted daily in the Nazareth Area School District is “a tragedy, sinful," according to superintendent Dennis Riker.

Lots of Nazareth Area School District students aren’t eating their fruit and veggies at lunchtime. In fact, they’re throwing them in the trash. And district officials say there’s not much they can do about it right now.

Starting with the current school year, federal guidelines require that students take servings of fruit and vegetables with the standard lunch offering. The problem, as explained by superintendent Dennis Riker, is that many students are simply throwing away the uneaten food.

Riker, speaking during and after Monday night’s school board meeting, called the situation “a tragedy, sinful.” And he said the amount of fruit and vegetables being wasted comes to 30 to 40 percent.

He said he asked the district’s food director to find out if the district could somehow recapture the wasted food -- in the manner of a recycling program --and donate it to soup kitchens or food banks. The director told him it can’t be done.

Meanwhile, providing the required fruit and vegetables at lunch is costing the district 15 cents more per lunch than before the new guidelines. To offset the higher cost, Riker said, the district has asked the federal government for an additional 6 cents per lunch.

But he explained during the meeting that even with an additional 6 cents per lunch, “we’re still 9 cents behind the eight ball.”

And board vice president Linda McDonald, as if finishing Riker’s thought, added, “to pay for food that is wasted.”

It was McDonald who brought up the problem during the meeting -- she called it “issues with wasted food.”

The district isn’t the only one paying more for food. In many cases, Riker said, students are paying more when they refuse to take fruit and vegetables and purchase lunch “a la carte.”

He explained that it costs students more to buy a cheeseburger and milk than it does for them to buy a cheeseburger, milk and servings of fruit and vegetables.

District business administrator Bernadine Rishcoff said that serving too many a la carte lunches also is a bad deal for the district. The district gets no government money for a la carte lunches, but gets payments for the regular lunch offerings, she said.

And, she pointed out, students getting free or reduced-price lunches lose that advantage when they request a la carte. That they have to pay for, she said.

In addition to seeking the additional 6 cents per lunch, the district is trying ways to make fruit and vegetables more attractive to students. For instance, the cafeteria is offering packaged apples as an alternative to a fresh apple, and so far some students seem interested in these, Riker said.

Students may be dumping the fruit and vegetables, but district officials have gotten little comment from the students or their parents, Riker said.

Do you have a suggestion? Tell us in the comments section.

Joseph Jasniewicz October 23, 2012 at 12:38 PM
Could a donation container be put there for the fruit and then sent to a soup kitchen. I hate to see food wasted.
Barbara Reinhart October 23, 2012 at 12:39 PM
The problems with the new school lunch program are a small price to pay for the benefits to our children who are being guided towards making better food choices. I am not sure how the school directors know how many parents have commented or expressed their opinion. After I read all I could find online about the new government directives, I called and spoke to the Food Service Director by phone the day I received the notice about the new policies from the school district. The 6 cents the District is "requesting" is a reimbursement that is built into the program. While the district may need to formally request this money, it is not as if they are asking for something that is not part of the program. The 6 cents is available for every standard full lunch under the new guidelines sold by the district. This is according to the information published about the new requirements, not the notice sent out by NASD. I made sure to tell my children before the first day of school they were expected to take the fruits and vegetables, and to try to eat them. This is a better solution than to serve chips as vegetables and ice cream as a dairy product.
Phoebe Cubberly October 23, 2012 at 12:48 PM
My comment isn't exactly on issue, but related...my 3 kids have all said the milk provided with the lunches "tastes nasty", and they have always refused to take a milk. Therefore their lunches are priced "a la carte", (ouch!) and they pay extra for the lunch plus a bottle of water. This has always bothered me; they get their milk at home, so nutrient wise they are fine, but it has cost our family hundreds of dollars more per child per year. Is it also costing the school district? Perhaps we could contract for a better tasting milk. (BTW, I only have one child left in the school district)
S October 23, 2012 at 03:02 PM
I know for a fact that many parents are furious with these new guidelines especially myself. We are teaching our kids that it is okay to throw good food out just to save money WOW great call our government has come up with. They have to realize WE are the childrens parents,and it is up to US what they eat and don't eat not the government and not the schools. I told my kids that they should bring the apple or whatever raw fruit they get home they said it isn't allowed EXCUSE ME, I pay for that food and if I want my kids to bring it home they should have every right to I have 4 kids in the district in all four schools in total I pay close to $55 a week for school lunches but we can't have the raw fruit if we want who do they think they are I am NOT paying for food to be given away to the soup kitchens when I myself struggle weekly to put food on my table and my husband works for that money. And I am with Phoebe on the whole milk thing my kids hate the taste of it they said it is gross, but they have to pay extra for water, that doesn't make sense when the ala carte price of water is the same as a carton of milk ala carte why isn't water offered as well it is just as healthy and necessary in a daily diet??????? I guess it is time for a trip to a school district meeting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
S October 23, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Guiding children to food choices is up to the parents not the government and not the school and an occasional treat with their lunches might just be better then kids heading home starving and eating junk before dinner when alot of the kids aren't being watched. They keep this up alot of people are talking sending their kids with lunch instead the less kids buying lunch, the less workers the school needs to pay for and the more people out on unemployment. Doesn't seem to intelligent to me.
Eric Harding October 23, 2012 at 08:11 PM
All I have to say is what was wrong with the system that I grew up with?? It worked just fine.
Eric Harding October 23, 2012 at 08:12 PM
You can't donate food that has been handled by a consumer. The liability will lie on the school district. Thank you sue happy America!
SlunchSeeYa October 23, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Well the school lunches are way smaller students say and the fruits and vegetables are all out of a can covered in fruit syrup which does not entice the students to eat it. My suggestion is that the fruits and vegetables need to be all fresh, the right ripeness, and the right temperature. In fact their is so many other ways you can entice the students by making fruit salad, fruit with whipped cream on top, and etc. The whole thing about todays issue is that school lunch programs are lazy and it is all about the money. This is downright wrong and mean for the students. We need to move forward and not move backwards! Let's make a move to go forward and you can do so just by liking this Facebook page (www.facebook.com/slunchseeya) the page will be submitted to the white house once it reaches its full potential! The students need brain food not fart food.
K Wert October 23, 2012 at 11:41 PM
yes my 2 High Schoolers def need all the fat content, calories whatever they can get...it's their metabolism and this mandated new lunch program really irks me.. We need to feed our children or control what they eat as parents not as a govt run agency making those decisions.... my kids would rather take an extra entre' over that extra piece of fruit....
Smalltown Girl October 24, 2012 at 01:35 AM
Interesting side-comment: I am a food demonstrator at the local Sam's Club. We have been sampling several apples lately, sometimes also offering a caramel dip on the apples. I have been running a little experiment. I offer apples with the dip and apples without the dip. About 70% of the time (if the child is between 4-10 years old) and they are given the choice they will take the apple WITHOUT the dip. I read this as school and parents making headway to reduce the child's sweet-tooth. If the child is not given the choice, they will take whatever they are given. It is very interesting to stand and watch how/when/why adults (single shoppers vs. families shopping vs. young vs. older shoppers) and children (young - riding in the cart vs. tweens; teens, etc.) sample foods. Some grab-n-go; some won't try anything new. Usually, if encouraged by a parent, the child will try something new. But it drives me nuts when the child wants to try and the parents say, no- you won't like it. Let the kid try it. And stop calling fish filets chicken fingers. BACK-ON-TOPIC: Yes. Find a way to offer all foods as fresh and appetizing as possible. But no matter what, keep offering the fruits and veggies. Another generation is coming. They are eating better. Roman wasn't built in a day. I didn't get fat in a week. So it's gonna take awhile to find the right combination and that may vary between schools and the age of the child..
Ben Miller October 24, 2012 at 02:07 AM
I agree strongly with Eric Harding. I actually enjoyed everything our cafeteria served back in the day before restaurants catered meals with pizza and such. Our pizza was frozen squares they reheated and our subs weren't from Subway, they were "Blue Eagle Hoagies" made with government meat and cheese. That's the way it was and we liked it, by God! We loved it! Peanut Butter Bars..... Pizza Boats,.......... Hotdogs with long cubical cheese I loved it all.
Bruce Davis October 24, 2012 at 03:39 AM
Good nutrition is hard to sell. You would think the lunch program would promote healthy happy faces on posters in the cafeteria's with them eating fruits and vegetables. You also have heard of the drought and lack of corn for aminals and livestock. There may be a few farmers who might accept the discarded food. Farmers who have found the price of corn too high to feed their animals are feeding their cows and pigs high fructose corn syrup based candy waste from candy factories. Certainly, there should be more food recycling solutions from a society that discards large amounts of perfectly healthy food while there are shortages else-where's all around the globe.
rolex sub October 24, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Barbara, why did you have to tell your children anything. The school is supposed to raise them for you!
JBW1984 October 24, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Just remember, not every district is like Nazareth... A lot of neighboring districts have families that can't even afford fresh fruit for their kids and the only place they can get that type of food is from school. (Yes, I"m sure there are a few cases in the area, but not anywhere near the situations around us). And let's face it, not all parenting styles and choices are like yours and mine and that will never change. Yes, the waste of food is a disgrace and it sickens anyone standing there watching it, but this is what happens when government tries to stick every school in the same mold without realizing the differences between the districts and demographics. It's a no win situation really.. the amount of food being wasted is pretty much the same as it has been before Michelle transformed school lunches. Atleast the kids have an opportunity to eat something healthy!
Bruce Davis October 25, 2012 at 05:35 AM
As a person with Type 2 Diabetes I developed it late in life due to believing I would live healthy regardless of the diet I maintained. Unfortunately, reality happens when you are diagnosed. If education and good eating habits and exercise were promoted early and knowing the consequences of poor diets we would not complain about the government trying to promote healthy choices. Any person watching a diabetic waste away in the last 5 years of life getting amputation after amputation to keep them alive a little longer would get the message. Perhaps this is the real message that should be promoted for people to wake up. I have changed and do as the government and my doctors encourage me to do to remain healthy and control my sugars and remain healthy. Many people have no idea of what is in store for them based on dietary choices made when you are young. Eating healthy is not about money as many healthy foods are very affordable, just not popular, and I am not talking exotic health foods here. Life has consequences for all of our actions, including what you eat, though some of us believe we will live forever especially when we are young and healthy. Wishing you all here a long and healthy life!
Rosemary B October 26, 2012 at 01:05 AM
LOL!
Rosemary B October 26, 2012 at 01:07 AM
Why is taking water not considered as healthy as the milk? It is not a sugary drink and our bodies all need water. Do they really think parents don't provide milk at home? This is government gone WAY TO FAR!
Rosemary B October 26, 2012 at 01:08 AM
I think you have to go higher than that. I think this is a federal mandate.

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