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.