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.

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
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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