By ASHLEE HADDIX
Times Staff Writer
The photo Stacy Jones recieved from her daughter early last week which gave rise to her concerns about the portions and options avalable to PCHS students.
Getting kids to eat more fruits and vegetables is something we can all get behind! However, early last week many parents found themselves unhappy with the school lunch options their kids were receiving. Social media sites such as Facebook were flooded with images of school plates with less than desirable entries and many angry parents wondering what was happening. Some of those parents such as Stacy Jones, even attended the school board’s monthly meeting with their concerns. Jones, who has children in both the middle and the high school, states that her daughter sent her a picture of her lunch and she was immediately dissatisfied. Jones feels as if the board “brushed her off” as she didn’t really receive any answers but that she has done research at other local schools and believes the options could improve. Jones says, “four little nuggets, a roll and some oranges will not fill up a high school kid and I know there were other options but apparently the kids didn’t like those options or they would have had them on their plates”. Jones says all she is asking is that the schools provide a decent filling meal that kids will actually eat.
Laura Young, School Nutrition Director, says that Powell County is part of the CEP program for the state. The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a free meal service option for schools and school districts in low-income areas. The USDA website states that the CEP qualification “allows the nation’s highest poverty schools and districts to serve breakfast and lunch at no cost to all enrolled students without collecting household applications. Instead, schools that adopt CEP are reimbursed using a formula based on the percentage of students categorically eligible for free meals based on their participation in other specific means-tested programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)”. No student enrolled in any of the school within the county are charged for their meals, both breakfast and lunch. However, their are some strict guidelines the school must follow in accordance with the program. Young describes it as a “puzzle that has to be put together and include so much sodium, fats and calories per student”. As for the portions, Young states that sometimes a downside to several options for the full meal is that students chose what they want, but you can’t make them chose it all. Students must get a minimum of 3 items for the plate to qualify for reimbursement through CEP and one of those items must be a fruit or vegetable. Young would like to express that each student is given the option of a meat, fruit, vegetables and bread at every lunch. Students are not charged for any additional helpings of vegetables however starch vegetables such as french fries are only available for one serving (students can not even purchase additional of those) per the guidelines. The only additional charges students should pay is for extra meat servings and those are always $1.25. Students are always allowed to bring their own lunch if they chose and students/parents can put money on their lunch account to buy extra’s if they feel they need more food. Young also encourages all parents to download the “My School Bucks” app on their phones so they can monitor their child’s lunch account funds at any time. The app is free and all you need is your child’s lunch number.
Not all parents are outraged over the lunches however. Parents like Tiffany Hawkins, who has children in Clay City Elementary, states “I think it’s great. It provides nutritionally balanced meals, for free”. Hawkins also states that having the breakfast and lunch calendar’s ahead of time (as provided by all the schools to all students) makes it easier for her to see if she needs to send them lunch if the day’s food isn’t what her children will eat. Hawkins also states “I think the school does a fantastic job of providing healthy lunch and breakfast with a limited budget”.
Young would like to encourage all parents to come to their child’s school and sit down for a meal to see what their children are eating. The schools will allow parents to enjoy lunch with their children and get a first hand glance at what is being served during meal times.