School board members and Associate Superintendent Tami Eshleman talked about the quality of the North Platte school lunches Monday with Bernice Ziegler, a resident who voiced some concerns she’s heard from parents.Ziegler spoke during the public comments segment of the board meeting. She said she's been told that some children don’t get enough to eat because portions are too small and there are no second helpings. Yet, a lot of food thrown away, she said.
“Somebody needs to step up and look into this,” Ziegler said.
School board president Mike Morrell replied.
Morrell said he has lunch at an elementary school every week where he mentors, and students there are allowed to fill their trays. He said a lot of children decide not to eat everything they take, and that food has to be thrown out. He said that can amount to as much as three-fourths of a tray of food.
Board member Jo Ann Lundgreen said she visits another elementary school, where students sometimes take milk or juice and then decide they don’t want it. If those containers are unopened, lunch staff gives it to students who want a second helping of milk or juice.
Lundgreen noted that sometimes a child’s eyes are bigger than their stomachs.
She also said former First Lady Michelle Obama initiated a provision in the federal lunch program that mandated fruit or vegetables each day. She said students had to take it, but some didn’t like it, or like being told what to eat, so those portions often ended up in the trash.
Business manager Stuart Simpson noted that breakfasts and snacks are also served at elementary schools, besides lunches, to help see that children get enough to eat.
Simpson said if students eat everything on their tray, they can go back for seconds.
Ziegler asked if students are taught not to throw food away. In reply, Eshleman said there are a lot of visual reminders (posters) in lunchrooms.
Eshleman said her son was a lineman on the high school football team with a big appetite. He preferred to eat the high school lunch, even though he could have gone off campus. She said he couldn’t get as much to eat for the price anywhere else.
Morrell said any parent who is concerned that their child is not getting enough to eat should eat lunch with their child at the school, to see what the problem might be, and if the food service is lacking.
Under a program that started last year, free lunches will be served next year at Buffalo, Jefferson, Lincoln and Cody Elementary schools.
The four schools meet the criteria set forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which reimburses the district for most of the cost of the meals. The program will continue for at least four more years, Simpson has said.
Students attending the four schools -- Buffalo, Jefferson, Lincoln or Cody -- automatically qualify for free meals; however, the benefits do not extend to their siblings.
Households who only have children in these four schools do not need to complete an application for free or reduced price meals.
However, if a student in one of these Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) schools transfers to a non-CEP North Platte school or out of the district, the free meal benefit does not transfer with the student.