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Salt banned from school menus; much food goes in trash

By Sherri Ellington There have been changes in school nutrition menus ‘“ and not just the complete ban on salt. Where once school programs got much of its food from the USDA commodities program, now most fruits and vegetables come through the Department of Defense. Nutrition director Sharon Manley gave a report on the program at the Oct. 14 board of education meeting. She listed 16 agencies the food program must now answer to on the local, state and federal levels. ’There are a whole lot of reports that have to be filed,’ said Manley. ‘It’s very labor intensive. It takes a team and there’s no room for error.’ GEMA oversees nowrequired bioterrorism and natural disaster training; schools now work with GEMA and the Red Cross ‘when there’s a natural disaster or something,’ Manley said. ‘We have to have three to three and a half months’ ability to operate.’ The Department of Family and Children Services gets involved with free and reduced lunches. Last year 69.4% of children got free meals and 9.9% got them at a discount, a total of 79.3%. That left 20.7% of students paying full price. As for the USDA, ‘All of our menus are analyzed,’ said Manley. ‘The most important thing is that we feed our children safe and nutritious food; we work very hard to do so. There are strict standards.’ While students want salt, ‘We can’t give it to them,’ said Manley. ‘We’re working with basil and other herbs to try and improve the flavor. Hungry children can’t concentrate.’ Some 25% of all school food is being thrown away uneaten because students say it needs seasoning, she added, ‘and we can’t even give it to a local pig farmer. It’s not my food, it’s the USDA’s food.’ Smart Snacks regulations limit all food sold outside the meal programs on campus during the school day. That includes vending machines, a la carte items and school stores. ’It counts for us in the cafeteria too,’ she said. ’We cannot sell a second meal to a child if it doesn’t meet the standards.’ The county health department gives school cafeterias grades just as it does restaurants. There is one difference: If the school score drops below 95, the state can shut it down. For the past two years, the cafeterias have been scored at 100 to 99, with the lowest score of 97 coming in November 2013. Last school year public school cafeterias served 518,057 meals. The USDA provided $104,040.74 toward school meals and the DOD spent $20,000 on ‘fruits and vegetables from farmers and folks like that,’ said Manley. ’They can buy a larger amount of food and it’s name brand items. It’s not the old cheese in a can.’ There are 31 people employed by the school nutrition program which has four openings; two substitute workers were hired at the meeting. All must be ServSafe certified. The board also: ’¢ Accepted the resignation of high school counselor Holly Cantrell and approved medical leave for bookkeeper Brenda Foster and assistant superintendent Norma Greenwood. ’¢ Noted the Georgia Accrediting Commission has accredited all the schools with quality and the middle and high schools were named top 10% achieving schools, receiving $4,500 each. The recognitions were given during the board’s annual dinner with the Leadership Lamar class. ’¢ Heard last month’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax receipts totaled $153,000. This is the highest it has been since 2012. Title Ad Valorem Taxes for the year came in at $300,000. ’¢ Received certificates for completion of part of its nine total hours of annual board member training. ’¢ Heard the fund balance for the end of the 2013-14 school year came in at $4.3 million, including sales tax receipts. ’¢ Approved its code of conduct, wellness program and a resolution to be sent to the General Assembly asking that local school board elections be made nonpartisan.

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