Fed action looms if schools don’t cut calories

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Unlimited fruit, veggies, free seconds no longer option

By Meaghan Downs

If the average school lunch doesn’t shave off 94 calories by the end of the year, then the district’s food service program may find itself under administrative review by the federal government.
Food service director Marsha Rogers said during Monday night’s board meeting that an Anderson County school district lunch, on average, has 94 more calories than what is required by the federal Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
Although restrictions on meat and bread options have been lifted for this year, Rogers said, it will be very difficult to meet the federal standards and have full kids.
“I believe that will be easier than convincing kids to eat pinto beans and kale these days,” Rogers said, referring to when her job entailed limitations on cooking with butter and sugar.
If the district meets standards by the end of the current school year, the food program will receive a 6-cent increase in federal funding per student, Rogers said.
If not, the program will be under administrative review, she said.
In addition, Rogers said, cafeterias cannot allow students to have unlimited fruits and vegetables or other meal options; all second helpings must be paid for by the student or the program risks losing reimbursement.
Rogers said she feels that the strict federal guidelines may cause parents to drop out of the school district’s food service program entirely.
“I feel like it will hurt participation significantly,” she said.
Rogers said she doesn’t believe the district has lost any significant money in uneaten food served as a part of meeting Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act guidelines.
“If they don’t like it, they’re not going to eat it,” Rogers said of students in a follow-up interview after the board meeting.
Current calorie limits for elementary students are 550-650 calories per lunch; middle school students are 600-700 calories per lunch and high school students can eat 750-850 calories per lunch.
The district is also required to serve two servings of red and/or orange vegetables each week and two servings of dark, leafy greens.
Rogers said during the meeting that a group of food service directors from the state were heading to Washington, D.C., to voice their concerns about the strict requirements.
“Keep your fingers crossed,” she said to the school board.

Marching band receives new uniforms
The school board received applause and a standing ovation from Anderson County marching band students and parents after the board unanimously approved the purchase of new marching band uniforms for the upcoming marching season.
Quoted at a final price of $34,153 from vendor DeMoulin, the new band uniforms should last about 10 years, according to band parent Donna Callahan.
According to a letter submitted to the board by band director Patrick Brady, who was unable to attend Monday’s meeting because of the regional basketball tournament, the current uniforms have led to the band being docked and many garments are in major need of repair.
“It’s just gotten to the point where they’re falling apart,” Callahan said during the meeting, adding that some uniforms were cut apart and re-sown to make them fit the younger middle school marching band members.
The school will cover half of the cost of the uniforms, for a total $17,076, Superintendent Sheila Mitchell said.
Band uniforms were last purchased in 2006.
“We need those students to have a good uniform to show what Anderson County is made of,” board president James Sargent said.
New school board member and former marching band “box” mom Donna Crain Drury agreed, saying good uniforms make a difference in students’ performance.
Board member Scott Brown said the board of education anticipated the expense of the uniforms, and that they have secured funds to assist in purchasing band uniforms.
Anderson County High School senior Alexis Corbin spoke on behalf of the students, thanking the board for purchasing new uniforms for future band members.
She said one of this year’s seniors was unable to perform on the finals field due to his jacket’s zipper malfunctioning.
“We’ve worked really hard to create a new image for ourselves and for this band,” Corbin said.
At about 110 members currently, the marching band may be adding another 30 musicians and color guard, according to one band parent.

Meal assistance up
Rogers also reported on the number of students eligible for meal benefits in the school district.
Amderson County High School: 39 percent qualified for meal assistance, no increase from last year.
Anderson County Middle School: 45 percent, a 2 percent increase
Saffell Street Elementary: 53 percent, a 4 percent decrease
Emma B. Ward Elementary: 49 percent, a one percent decrease
Robert B. Turner Elementary: 49 percent, a 3 percent increase
Ezra B. Sparrow Early Childhood Center: 62 percent, a 10 percent increase
District-wide: 47 percent qualified for meal-assistance, a 2 percent increase that Rogers said has been a pattern in the district for the last few years.
Rogers also said the district is sitting on about $15,000 in unpaid school lunch payments for the school year.

Other business
Superintendent Mitchell recognized the achievement of the Anderson County High School FCCLA students’ placings at the FCCLA Students Taking Action with Recognition competition on Feb. 9 at Jessamine County Career and Tech Center.
Nine students competed against about 175 other students across their region, according to FCCLA adviser Heather Adams.  
“These competitions are career and leadership development events that range from early childhood to environmental ambassador to entrepreneurship,” Adams said via e-mail.
Students who placed in the competition were:
Leann Ashby and Mikayla Marshall: Illustrated Talk first place; Lauren Fowler, Lindsey Bowman, and Kelsey Peach: Life Event Planning first place; Emily Gritton and Leah Mager: Chapter Service Project Manual first place; and
Mackenzie Peavler and Anna Marie Hyatt: Promote and Publicize FCCLA second place.
Students receiving first place will move on to state competition in March.