MASSENA — The Massena Central School District is doing what it can to promote its food service program to students. But, Food Service Director Peter Bertrand said, they like other school districts are dealing with waste.
In a presentation to the district’s Board of Education, Mr. Bertrand said approximately 100,000 schools participate in the national school lunch program, and they serve about 29.7 million meals a day.
But, he said, students aren’t eating every part of every meal, according to a comprehensive national study done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Approximately 21 percent of all available calories are wasted. It’s a little higher at the elementary than it is at the middle schools and high schools,” Mr. Bertrand said.
He said that, overall, about 30 percent of vegetables were wasted, as were 29 percent of milk and 26 percent of fruits and vegetables that were offered to the students.
Although the food might be wasted, Mr. Bertrand said they are required to follow USDA guidelines in order to qualify for meal reimbursement, providing at least a minimum amount of fruits and vegetables.
In Massena, students must take three of the five components in the meal — fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods and dairy. One of those must be a fruit or vegetable, Mr. Bertrand said.
Servings are in 4-ounce containers. Students are allowed to take two servings maximum if they are hungry, or one serving in order to qualify for the meal.
“Those are usually the ones that get wasted,” he said.
In addition to a breakfast and lunch program, Mr. Bertrand said they recently began an after-school snack program for high school students. Among the items that are available are sandwiches, cereal and milk.
“This is a reimbursable program through the government. We’re serving close to 100 students a day. We’re hearing many positive comments. Students are very appreciative,” he said.
They are working with J.W. Leary Junior High School Principal Alan Oliver to institute a similar program there.
He said they surveyed students last year to identify how they felt about the food that was available to them at school.
“There were very positive comments, actually. They like the food. They wanted some different things. We’ll probably do another survey this spring just to follow up,” Mr. Bertrand said.
They also surveyed students before starting the after-school snack program. He said, of the 250 surveys that were sent out, 130 were returned and 125 students indicated they wanted to participate in the program.
“It seems like you’re doing a good job in general,” board member Robert LeBlanc said.