LEWISBURG — A growing list of federal regulations are increasing the challenges faced by staffers charged with providing food services for local public school students.
Frustrations have made national news since the start of the initiative, purportedly begun to make healthier food choices available and to change dietary habits.
Kevin Oswald, a food service director who serves both the Lewisburg and Selinsgrove area districts, told LASD directors Thursday night that another level of regulations have been added annually since 2010.
“This year was really...difficult with salt restrictions, calorie restrictions...what they call ‘smart snacks’ now,” Oswald told directors. “It is certainly healthy food and we are going in the right direction, but to get kids from where they were to where we would like them to be is going to take some transitions.”
Kathy Swope, director and board president, said the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and the National School Boards Association brought concerns about school food guidelines to federal legislators, and the impact the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act is having on school budgets.
Swope said modifications were needed, and the disposal of uneaten but mandated perishables are driving costs up.
“We’re feeding trash cans, literally, fruits and vegetables” Oswald replied, and later said students in some cases are simply not adjusting quickly to what is offered. He attributed lower participation in both district to the quickness with which the regulations were imposed.
Wintry weather, which has resulted in nine two-hour delays to the opening of the school day to date, has also been difficult for food services, hurting participation for both breakfasts and lunches.
“When you lose two hours in the morning, you lose a breakfast...and what happens is that participation drops at lunchtime, because a lot of the kids are just coming in and we send them to the cafeteria to eat,” Oswald said. More students are out of school in the winter due to illness, he also observed, which also cuts into participation.
Oswald was optimistic that March, April and May would be better months for participation, and he has been able to secure additional United States Department of Agriculture money and food.
Oswald said it was too early to tell if the food program was at the break-even point for the year. Superintendent Dr. Mark DiRocco echoed the thought that January is typically a difficult month for food service, but things pick up heading toward the end of the school year.
Oswald, who is shared by two districts, said 60 percent of his expenses are paid by the Selinsgrove district and 40 percent by Lewisburg, saving money for both.
In board business, Fred Scheller, Lewisburg Area School District director and board treasurer, was elected board vice president Thursday night, filling the unexpired term of Edward Zych whose resignation was announced earlier this month. There were no other nominations. Scheller’s position as board treasurer, which does not run along the same cycle as vice-president, will be filled at an upcoming meeting.
Directors approved a measure that would preserve and protect native plants, animals, soil, the water table, drainage patterns and other items at the construction site for the new high school. The Declaration of Restrictive Covenants for Conservation was required by the local Conservation District and written by the district solicitor. It passed without a dissenting vote.
Staff Writer Matt Farrand can be reached at 570-742-9671 and via email at email@example.com.