Southeast Bexar County Awareness: Healthy Meals a Must in School Districts- Some Don't Get It

Does America Have a Weight Problem?

Obesity in America

The first lady, Michelle Obama has been a huge supporter of exercise and healthy meals for America's children. American's however, aren't getting it done. In minority groups, it was found that approximately 20% of children to include teenagers are overweight. The Healthier Hunger Free Kids Act works to help make America's kids healthier for a longer and better future.

Sadly, this generation, if it does not change it's eating habits will be the first generation that is expected to live much shorter lives than their parents. Bad eating habits start at home and while some parents think that the children should be fed the same things they get at home because they think they are healthy, they are sorely mistaken.

The federal government is responsible for the health of a child in so many ways. A student spends most of its time in school from the age of 3 to 18. At least five times a week and two meals per day. The federal government has strict guidelines to help our children become healthy eaters. If our children do not change their eating habits, in the long run, they will cost the government even more money in healthcare expenses.

Approximately 85% of children diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. Parents are ultimately responsible for their child's health and also the worst examples for children's eating habits and the biggest proponents for children to not take responsibility for their own eating habits. If a child complains about school lunches or the healthy meal on a restaurant menu, the parent is quick to ask for substitutions of fatty or sweet sides, toppings, etc. to satisfy the child.

School lunch programs are federally funded. What does that mean? A school district must meet or exceed the federal guidelines of what is an acceptable menu for the district. If the guidelines are met, the district receives funding to cover the costs of "free lunch" programs. If they do not, the school district will not only lose it's funding, it will also be fined for each day that it is not in compliance.

What does that mean to a school district? If the federal government does not provide funding for free lunch, then the parents are responsible for providing lunch money for each students, the district may be required to provide the lunch at the cost to the district and fines will be paid on a daily basis until it comes into compliance with the federal regulations.

Some of the regulations for 2013-2014:

  • All grains to be whole grain
  • For breakfast: milk, vegetable, fruit and two grains. (No meat)
  • Sodium, sugar and fat content will be cut.
  • Sodium in the lower grades will be 1230 milligrams
  • Sodium in the high school grades will be 1420 milligrams
  • Menu's are required to be approved to keep from being audited and fined.

It is time for the parent to teach by example and the child to eat healthier.

Loren Brewer, Southside ISD School Board President
Loren Brewer, Southside ISD School Board President

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Southside ISD President Pushes for Self Operational Food Program

Southside ISD newly elected board president, Loren Brewer and his "team" were elected by a small portion of the community who got out and voted, while others stayed complacently at home. Many campaign promises were made to these individuals and one of them was to have the district go "self op"; a self operational district must still comply with all federal guidelines.

Currently, the school district does not have a food service provider as they fired Aramark Food Service, which had been with the district for over a decade. The food service operates off the reimbursements from the government and other sales. The cost for a year of food service to the district runs approximately $3 million dollars, of which does not cost the district money due to the a fore mentioned operations. If the district were to remove themselves from the National School Lunch program to provide the meals that Mr. Brewer and his committee chairperson, Robin Cantu want, the district would still be required to follow the regulations and the district would lose $3 million dollars of the federal funding to go to food service for the students.

Ms. Cantu and other supporters of the self op option spoke about the waste due to food being thrown away. Health codes and federal guidelines require that a student receive a certain amount of food per meal, if the child does not eat it, it must be thrown away. Is it wasteful, yes, but it is hard for a child to eat a healthy meal if they do not get one at home. The federal guidelines are changing to make sure that healthy foods are getting to children as early as preschool so that they grow accustomed to healthier foods early on. These are USDA regulations, not school board or superintendent regulations that can be changed at a whim.

WHAT WILL THEY FEED THE CHILDREN

With the firing of the food service company Aramark, the staff at Southside ISD reported to work to find that the computer programs owned by Aramark had been retrieved and the staff had no menu to create a meal for the summer school children. The school board made a motion to look at hiring a Food Service Director and an Assistant Director, but not a motion to hire a nutritionist, which is required in order to comply with the federal regulations. At this day and time, the district is not meeting the federal guidelines and they still have summer school children that need to be fed.

Ms. Cantu before the media.
Ms. Cantu before the media.

1st Committee Meeting

Southside ISD Food Service Committee had it's first official meeting. The committee chairperson, Robin Cantu was prepared with menu's and all only to be told that neither menu was acceptable and would put the district in violation, loss of funds and fines.

Committee members were also told that the district campuses are not equipped to go self operational and would require expenses of new stoves, ovens, etc. per campus and a commissary to house items that are required to be purchased in bulk in order for the district to save money. A $300,000 facility and appliances would take a huge chunk out of the district budget as well as the purchase of all the food, loss of funds and fines.

The committee did not formally report to the newly elected board, as there was no agenda item to the fact. Therefore, the newly elected board made a motion to terminate Aramark without taking into consideration the findings of the committee, unless it was done privately, which would be an open meetings act violation.

While it would be great to be able to have the meals that we were accustomed to as students all the many years ago, the federal government, not the district superintendent or the school board dictates what the children are fed in school.

Cost Over Run...

The first year of self-operational program in food service at Southside ISD came to an end and was met with some violations and cost over runs that will cost the tax payers.

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