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School Food Service Director Presents Timeline for Healthy Changes

School Food Service Director John Morgan said the schools have already made numerous changes.

Food Services Director John Morgan presented the School Committee last night with a timeline for healthier lunches.

After last month's, committee members voiced concerns about the quality of the food and the small percentage of students who actually buy lunch.

The new federal nutrition standards will go into effect on Aug. 1.

Morgan told the committee the schools have already changed to whole-wheat pizza, whole wheat cookies, cakes and dinner rolls. The cafeteria is now offering more fresh fruits and vegetables, he said.

"In the elementary schools, we recently added fresh salad options," he said. "The meals are nutritionally balanced but have a processed and unappetizing tray method."

Morgan said the schools currently partner with Preferred Meals for elementary school lunches, but will meet with a competitor to explore other options.

An entirely new elementary program will be finalized for next school year, Morgan said. A PDF of the entire timeline can be viewed in to the right.

Morgan also said the district is looking into a new point of sales computer system for purchasing food.

"It would be a big benefit, students would use a pin ID number, parents can track lunch spending and it reduces labor costs and involves less cash handling," Morgan said. "It increases serving line speed and (allows for) more time for kids to eat."

Morgan said the system would also take away any stigma involved with free and reduced lunch."

"That's a big thing now with the tickets, some of the kids are embarrassed sometimes knowing they're giving a ticket instead of paying for a lunch," Moregan said. "That’s totally done away with with a (point of sales) system."

 Committee Chairwoman Janet Askenburg expressed concern about the lack of participation in the school lunch program. Chelmsford's daily participation is about 30 percent, she said, compared to like-districts with numbers at about 60 percent.

"The way the economy is, it is going to be hard to reach that (level) even at high school," Morgan said. "There's so many kids still brown bagging, I think it’s a monetary issue. I think we put out some great food, I still think the economy is definitely affecting lunch counts in our schools."

Askenburg wondered if the issue was more of one dealing with the quality of the food.

"I think that's a high priority," she said. "I'd like to see the teachers and staff eating the lunches ... I'm really not interested in us looking at serving a different kind of lunch. Just in looking at the menu provided for this month, if I was a teacher I’d go in there and eat a salad or soup. I’d hate for a student to eat a salad and see a teacher eating a meatloaf or something more adult ... I’d like to see consistency there. Getting to that benchmark that should be a goal of ours that’s something we should track."

School Committee member Nick DeSilvio suggested doing a parent survey on the food program a few times per year.

Askenburg said the schools might be the one healthy meal students get per day.

"I don't want it to be that they come to school to get the junk food, they come to school to get the good food," she said. " ... The healthy food helps them perform better in school and that’s our ultimate goal."

The School Committee will meet monthly with Morgan to stay updated on the issue.

Lynda February 08, 2012 at 01:55 PM
My children only eat cookies and junk food at school. I was amazed when my 5 year old came home from KCC and told me he had a pop tart for snack and has sun chips for snack regularly. The food provided in elementary school is not teaching good eating habits.
Debbie Levine February 08, 2012 at 04:28 PM
I would LOVE to not have to make lunch every day but my kids refuse to eat it- sad because they used to love the school lunches in elementary school before they made the move to the pre-packaged foods. I would never let my kids eat that much processed food, and I feel bad for the kids who might have that as their best meal of the day. Our menu repeats itself way too often as well- go online and compare it to Westford, Acton, Lowell, and other surrounding towns and theirs all sound better.
Vivian Merrill February 08, 2012 at 06:26 PM
I make the kids lunches 95% of the time. Ocassionally we run out of lunch meat, and that's when they buy. The irony I find, as I'm writing this, is that lunch meat isn't that good for you, either. Both kids have stopped eating the baby carrots I've packed them (good thing we have rabbits). Fresh fruit sometimes makes it home again, too. What's a parent to do? They eat the second they enter the house after school, so maybe the schools could consider going back to the way things were when lunches were prepared at the school. It's still mass-produced, but it's fresh, and would probably look more appetizing.
Alyson February 09, 2012 at 01:42 PM
My one complaint about the school system has been the lunches/snacks that are served. My son has always been a good eater - lots of vegetables and fruits. When he started at KCC and elementary school, he was starting to eat more processed foods in the food that was served. I do allow him to purchase lunch about 50% of the time, but would like the school to serve more healthy options. If a child grows accustomed to eating fruits and veggies, that's what they will want to eat. If they are eating junk food, they will only eat that. Let's have a generation of healthy eaters and give them the food at school that will help them to make better eating choices as they grow up.
Barbara Quinn March 14, 2012 at 12:13 PM
My children went through the schools when they prepared it at school. They loved the food! My grandkids won't eat what they serve today at the schools. Maybe the old way was better?
April Campbell May 04, 2012 at 12:05 AM
When I looked into the Charter School I was really impressed with the variety of lunches they offered. And they even added in Ethnic flavors. Plus, they have a system you can purchase the lunches online and no tickets, no money needed. With all the online stuff Chelmsford Schools do I am surprised they haven't at least done the computer lunch ticket method.

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