New school lunch regulations making students and staff unhappy

Parents of local students and area school staff are unhappy with the new regulations imposed by the United States Government on school food. These new regulations require smaller portions and different food to meet the new nutrition needs. Mark Ficken, superintendent of the Boonville R-1 School District, said the district has changed the way it prepares school lunches within the last year to meet these requirements. Before the changes were enacted he said the cooks prepared home cooked meals. Now, he said, the cooks have to measure everything, from carbs to proteins. He also said that they have to make sure portion sizes are just right. Ficken said he does not like the changes taking place because he feels students are not getting the food they need. "I see more food getting thrown away than before. Kids are being served food that they have never eaten before and are not used to. Kids are also saying they don't get enough to eat," Ficken said. This sentiment is shared by the parents as well. Marlene Ridgeway, a mother of two Boonville school children said she is not happy with the new school lunch serving proportions. She said the students need more to eat, especially at the high school level. "I do not think the school lunches are determined for the kids' needs. I think the calorie intake is too low," Ridgeway said. She also said students need more substantial, quality food. Sandy Husereaux, a mother of two New Franklin High School students said she found out about the changes to the school lunch program right before the school year started.  "My daughter came home after the first day of school and informed me the proportions were significantly smaller than they used to be," Husereaux said. Husereaux also said students are now supplementing junk food to offset the sized proportions. She feels that students learn better with a full stomach rather than an empty one and when the students fill up on junk food rather than wholesome, well proportioned food, they do not learn as well, either. "The requirements we must follow require that we serve fewer carbs/proteins each week with more fruits and vegetables. Most bread/buns/ pancakes/rolls are whole wheat," Ficken said. Ficken said the government spends approximately $11 billion a year on the National School Lunch Program, with the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act adding another $7 billion over five years. "Taxpayers pay national school lunch costs entirely or mostly for 39 percent of the nation's school children, and partially for all the rest. The United States Department of Agriculture offers bonuses to states that increase their free-lunch rolls and in 2014 it will make every state offer a federal program requiring all students at participating schools to eat taxpayer-funded breakfasts, lunches and snacks at no direct cost to any student, regardless of their ability to bring or pay for food," Ficken said. As far as placing calorie information on Boonville High School soda machines Ficken said he was not for or against it. Ridgeway said posting calories on soda machines is a great idea, more so for adults. "It gives kids and adults, for that matter, an idea of what they are taking in as far as calories are concerned," Ridgeway said.