Broadalbin-Perth opts out of food rules at high school

BROADALBIN – The federal government next month will put in place more restrictions on the types of food schools can sell, but Broadalbin-Perth High School won’t be going along with them.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has authority over the national school meal programs, will implement new regulations July 1 in an effort to provide children with healthier meals.

“You can tell somebody what they should eat, but they are going to eat what they want to eat. If you don’t like shrimp, you’re not going to eat it,” Broadalbin-Perth Food Service Director George Hanstein told the Broadalbin-Perth Board of Education this week.

Under stringent new standards, schools won’t be able to sell treats such as potato chips, sweets and certain beverages, and will have to meet many nutrient guidelines.

The changes will affect the lunch lines, school stores and school vending machines.

“Not only does the school lunch now have to have certain nutritional foods, but so do all other foods served within the school,” Hanstein said.

Because of the new restrictions, district Superintendent Stephen Tomlinson said the high school will opt out of the rules in the 2014-15 school year.

When this happens, the district no longer will receive federal reimbursement for free, reduced-price or full-price lunches at the high school.

However, opting out of the program at the high school actually will save the school district more money than staying in it, according to district officials.

The district receives about $120,000 in sales per year from purchases from the high school a la carte menu. The school district would lose that revenue if it were to remain in the federal program because many of the popular a la carte items no longer would be allowed to be sold.

The district will lose only $60,000 per year in federal reimbursement when the district opts out of the program at the high school.

Tomlinson said the district still will offer free lunches for students who qualify at the high school.

The district’s other schools will remain in the federal program in accordance with the new standards.

Based on May figures, Hanstein said the a la carte’s gross sales at the high school are about $12,000 per month, and the program’s reimbursement for the same period is about half that.

The current regulations say students must take a fruit and vegetable to ensure the government reimburses the school for the cost of the meals. However, Hanstein said students often throw those items into the wastebasket.

He said the district still will offer a “type A” lunch to high school students, but students no longer will be required to take fruit or other items they don’t want to eat. Hanstein said this change will reduce the amount of food wasted, which will save money.

The federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 established new school food guidelines. The change coming in July is a continuation of that federal law, which calls for reduced calorie counts, fat and sodium.

The guidelines already allow only low-fat and fat-free milk, mandatory daily requirements of fruits and vegetables, a maximum amount of meat daily and limits on calorie levels.

Other local school districts are enrolled in the program.

Because of the number of students who participate in the free or reduced-price lunch program, other schools intend to remain in the reimbursement program.

The food service director for Fonda-Fultonville Central School District, Darla Sandford, said her district has about 40 percent of its student population using free or reduced-price lunch.

“We are actually contracted with a management company, and by working together, we have really made the program work for the students,” she said.

The food service director for the Gloversville and Johnstown school districts, Teal Carpenter, said neither district plans to leave the program at any of the buildings.

She said about 65 percent to 70 percent of the Gloversville student population receive free or reduced-price lunches, and about 44 percent of Johnstown students use the program.

Tomlinson said Broadalbin-Perth’s decision does not require school board approval, but he will continue to speak with the board and other district officials about the changes.