Posted by Kelly Lusk on 2/14/2017
February 14, 2017 - I received a few questions regarding the school cafeteria at the “Meet the Superintendent” night about the requirements and/or restrictions in the school cafeteria.
I will attempt to answer these questions and expand a little bit on them in as brief a manner as possible. Please understand that I am summarizing a manual that is hundreds of pages long. For more information on school lunch regulations, you may go to squaremeals.org or contact our Food Services Director, Flo Penrod.
As most of you know, the school receives a substantial amount of money from the federal government, Tom Bean has budgeted approximately $232,000 this year, to assist in funding the school breakfast and lunch program. The USDA places guidelines on the types of foods that are allowed to be served, how the foods are to be prepared and the amount to be served on each plate as well as numerous other guidelines and restrictions, including any type of food or snack that is distributed or sold by school personnel at any time during the school day. Unfortunately, this also includes items that are sold as fundraisers by different school organizations. Our cafeteria director and our administrators are responsible for following these rules. Our school food service department is audited on a regular basis and also may be “spot checked” at any time. If we as a school are found to be not following the guidelines, penalties will be imposed. Schools may lose the funding provided for that day’s breakfasts and lunches, or more severe fines that could be in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.
Please understand that we do not always agree with each of these regulations but that we are attempting to do our job as best we can to prevent the school from receiving a fine or a loss of revenue, which we use to provide the best possible breakfast and lunch that we can for our students. We attempt to use common sense as best we can to deal with these issues, but the risk of losing funds is real. I have known multiple schools in the area from which I came were fined and/or lost some funding as a result of not following the guidelines imposed by the federal government.
I would like to give you one example of how our local schools have to deal with these regulations. At my previous school, we hosted an annual basketball tournament. The first game of the tournament tipped off at 8:30 a.m. At some point during the day each of the grade levels were allowed to watch a game. Many of our younger students had never attended a basketball game so we took this opportunity to expose them athletic contests.
Like most schools we had a concession stand available for the teams and fans. It was important for those teams for us to cook burgers and have something for the visiting players and fans. There was nowhere in our community where these folks could get anything to eat for 15 miles and that was in the wrong direction for the traveling teams. Unfortunately, our students were not allowed to purchase items out of the concession stand. Rule 26.11 in the school lunch manual states that: the concession stand is considered to be “in competition” with the school lunch program. Elementary students may not be served a competitive food or have indirect access to a competitive food during the school day, junior high students may not have access to these competitive foods from 30 minutes before their lunch period to 30 minutes after their lunch period, and high school students may not have access to these competitive foods during their lunch period in the cafeteria. So therefore, we allowed the high school students to
purchase items out of the concession stand since it wasn’t in the cafeteria, the junior high students could purchase items after 1:30 but the elementary school students were not allowed to purchase items until after school had been released.
The guidelines for the School Lunch Program are constantly changing. We make every effort to keep our parents informed of these regulations. As rules change and we become more familiar with them we will distribute the regulations through the campuses. If you have any questions about the school lunch guidelines, please contact your campus principal.