Tuesday, July 3, 2007

OUSD Cuts Costs, Approves $111,000 Snack Bar

By Sondra Murphy
After hours of discussion over the district’s wellness policy last week, Ojai Unified School District board members declined to consider adding several items to its nutritional menus that could help reduce the deficit in the food services program. Just two agenda items later, the board approved the purchase of a concessions trailer to be installed at Nordhoff stadium that would serve the very foods the wellness policy has banned from school cafeterias.
Allowing parent and student clubs to profit from unhealthy fare, such as french fries and sodas, while its fiscally struggling nutrition program cannot serve such items was a double standard acknowledged by the board members. Still, they supported Nordhoff administrative and Parent Association requests for the $111,000 facility to serve as snack bar during extracurricular events.
“There are support groups that don’t have to follow the wellness policy,” explained superintendent Tim Baird. “The parent association is one of those groups.”
Debate took place about whether teachers and parents should comply with the wellness policy during events and parties. Examples of reward lunches featuring chips and soda were given. Despite lively discourse, the question remained: If the district is willing to spend money for a concession stand that defies its wellness policy, should it not then continue subsidizing healthy meals in its food services program?
The boardroom was full, as parents in support of eliminating unhealthy food from schools came to voice their concerns. The dangers of milk and foods containing additives or high fructose corn syrup were listed as particular items that should be removed for the sake of all student consumers. References to childhood obesity and diabetes were given to the board as warnings of the dire impact their decisions will have on society.
Several speakers said that many parents do not make informed decisions about what their children eat and so, regardless of cost, schools must shoulder the responsibility of feeding children healthy meals. Opinions of what qualified as healthful varied. “We want to produce a meal every day that attracts kids and turns a profit,” said Ojai Food for Thought president Jim Churchill. Food for Thought works to raise community awareness about the importance of using nutritional practices that reduce health-related problems.
Some speakers were worried that three-ounce bread portions would increase calorie contents to unhealthy levels. Others felt that it was unwise to allow less healthy foods to solve a financial crisis. Parent and chef Claud Mann agreed that budget issues are troublesome to overcome and proposed that the district might consider focusing on one ingredient at a time. “High fructose corn syrup is, essentially, crack. It is the devil,” said Mann. “If you concentrate on one thing, concentrate on that.”
District child nutrition services director Suzanne Lugotoff presented OUSD sample menus and details of federal and state standards that conflict with Ojai’s policies and have made ordering difficult and breaking even a losing battle. Just as textbooks are written to school standards, educational food suppliers create products to meet government requirements. The OUSD wellness policy is stricter in some of those requirements.
Lugotoff itemized daily losses of the district’s meal program, with numbers that emphasized what cooks have known for centuries: fresh fruits and vegetables require more time, money and resources to serve. Board vice-president Steve Fields took offense at Lugotoff’s presentation.
“I have no trust in these numbers,” Fields told Lugotoff. “I believe they were skewed to discredit the salad bar. I think they are way out of line.”
Lugotoff replied that her figures had no specific motivation towards the salad bar. “I’m very proud of the choices we’ve put together as far as the menus are concerned,” she said. Her statistics have shown that participation in the nutrition program is strong in elementary grades and dwindles as students advance to secondary sites.
“We have to recognize that high school and junior high students have really already formulated their opinions,” said board clerk Linda Taylor. “We have to educate our elementary students. I feel that Suzanne has that in mind.” She pointed out that the $160,000 deficit in the nutrition services budget is the equivalent to three teachers. Taylor added that, if they think about the amount as going towards educating students district-wide, the subsidy might appear less alarming.
The board agreed to consider in next month’s wellness policy update the addition of ala carte items to its elementary cafeterias, as all school foods are ordered based on stringent nutritional standards. Rejected for consideration were three-ounce breads, snack choices with up to 35% calories from fat, vended sodas, beverages with artificial sweeteners and Gatorade in 20-ounce containers that fit vending machines that previously dispensed sodas. Replacing the machines with new ones that dispense wellness policy-compliant beverages has proved cost prohibitive.
In hopes of offsetting some of the food services deficit, the board approved price increases for school breakfast and lunches for the coming school year. The cost for meals will increase by 25 cents and Lugotoff will evaluate ala carte items for similar changes. The last meal price increase occurred three years ago.
The next school board meeting will be held July 24 at 7 p.m. in the district office boardroom.
don’t have to follow the wellness policy,” explained superintendent Tim Baird. “The Parent Association is one of those groups.”
Debate took place about whether teachers and parents should comply with the wellness policy during events and parties. Examples of reward lunches featuring chips and soda were given. Despite lively discourse, the question remained: If the district is willing to spend money for a concession stand that defies its wellness policy, should it not then continue subsidizing healthy meals in its food services program?
The board room was full, as parents in support of eliminating unhealthy food from schools came to voice their concerns. The dangers of milk and foods containing additives or high fructose corn syrup were listed as particular items that should be removed for the sake of all student consumers. References to childhood obesity and diabetes were given to the board as warnings of the dire impact their decisions will have on society.
Several speakers said that many parents do not make informed decisions about what their children eat and so, regardless of cost, schools must shoulder the responsibility of feeding children healthy meals. Opinions of what qualified as healthy varied. “We want to produce a meal every day that attracts kids and turns a profit,” said Ojai Food For Thought President Jim Churchill. Food For Thought works to raise community awareness about the importance of using nutritional practices that reduce health-related problems.
Parent and chef Claud Mann agreed that budget issues are troublesome to overcome and proposed that the district might consider focusing on one ingredient at a time. “High fructose corn syrup is, essentially, crack. It is the devil,” said Mann. “If you concentrate on one thing, concentrate on that.”
District child nutrition services director Suzanne Lugotoff presented OUSD sample menus and details of federal and state standards that conflict with Ojai’s policies and have made ordering difficult and breaking even a losing battle. Just as textbooks are written to school standards, educational food suppliers create products to meet government requirements. The OUSD wellness policy is stricter in some of those requirements.
Lugotoff itemized daily losses of the district’s meal program, with numbers that emphasized what cooks have known for centuries: fresh fruits and vegetables require more time, money and resources to serve. Board vice president Steve Fields took offense at Lugotoff’s presentation.
“I have no trust in these numbers,” Fields told Lugotoff. “I believe they were skewed to discredit the salad bar. I think they are way out of line.”
Lugotoff replied that her figures had no specific motivation toward the salad bar. “I’m very proud of the choices we’ve put together as far as the menus are concerned,” she said. Her statistics have shown that participation in the nutrition program is strong in elementary grades and dwindles as students advance to secondary sites.
“We have to recognize that high school and junior high students have really already formulated their opinions,” said board clerk Linda Taylor. “We have to educate our elementary students. I feel that Suzanne has that in mind.” She pointed out that the $160,000 deficit in the nutrition services budget is the equivalent to three teachers.
The board agreed to consider in next month’s wellness policy update the addition of ala carte items to its elementary cafeterias, as all school foods are ordered based on stringent nutritional standards.
In hopes of offsetting some of the food services deficit, the board approved price increases for school breakfast and lunches for the coming school year. The cost for meals will increase by 25 cents and Lugotoff will evaluate ala carte items for similar changes. The last meal price increase occurred three years ago.
The next school board meeting will be held July 24 at 7 p.m. in the district office board room.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think that is absolutely ridiculous amount of money to spend on a new snack bar.

Anonymous said...

I thought that Nordhoff already had a snack bar. Are they talking of a new permanent structure, or a trailer?

Personally, I don't see a problem with a snack bar during games providing fries, burgers and sodas. When I was kid, we didn't have available allot of junk food at home or anywhere else for that matter in those days. It was a treat to go the snack bar for those rare treats. Yes, todays kids have that sort of food pushed down them by many different sources and the schools are at great fault for this. Not alone, but they allowed this to creep in to the point of perversion, making money off these foods in collusion with so called approved suppliers of food to the schools. Disgusting betrayal of our trust in their supervision.

The money that comes from the snack bars goes to many important facets that make up many student activities. At least that was the case when I went to school.

I have always believed that the number one cause to diabetes in kids is the proliferation of High Fructose Corn Syrup, that has made it into so many processed foods, that parents of today take it as normal.

We need a nation wide program to deprogram people from processed foods, at least bring them back to cooking meals from scratch at least once a day to start and to have healthy snacks at home or available to take to school.

This is a national crises. When I was a kid, it was not common to see fat kids in school. Fat kids have become the norm, skinny kids are the ones being teased these days, I know, for mine are teased all the time, not cruelly, but it's there. When you are out driving around, look at the kids, and look at adults. We are a nation of fatsos. When you see these fat ones, try to remember how it was when you were a kid. Were your friends so fat as what you see today. No way.

These folks that are developing a new track for the next feeding season need to do two things. One, realize they are on two tracks. The snack bar is a treat bar. If they are concerned, make available alternatives that are healthier without taking the junk out that so many want and expect. Two, Quit whining about how the kids will accept the healthier alternatives, for they already formed opinions on food. You have to market it to them. Kids are there to learn, and they already have made decisions on the their teachers, friends, and the whole idea of school. Do you give up or do you teach them. Teach and sell them on a more positive path.

Anonymous said...

Hey, how about paving Tico Rd? You pave La Luna and El Roblar, which should have really been paving El Roblar 1st, Tico 2nd, and La Luna last.

John Crowley said...

This might be an opportunity to bring back Ojai Frostie. Just a thought...

Anonymous said...

I didn't realize the school board was in charge of paving roads.

Anonymous said...

Why are we all concentrating on healthy foods being served at Nordhoff. Does the district and food awarness board not reliaze if you don't serve foods the kids want at the High School they will leave campus and get what they want. Which then exposes our children to a high percentage rate of being in accidents and or hit by cars and being killed because they are looking for the foods they want to eat and rushing to do so. Give me a break I would take my children's safety over healthy food any day.

Anonymous said...

I have three children that go to the schools in this valley. Elemenatry, Junior High School and High School and all three of them most days go to school without eating lunch not because I don't give them money but because they say they don't have enough time to stand in the long lines and eat their lunch then get to class on time. This is awful Instead of focusing on Healthy Food Why don't we focus on making sure our children in this valley are able to eat. Instead of spending money on this expensive healthy and organic food spend it on hiring some more help...
Are any of these people on the board a Parent with children currently enrolled in one of the schools here..