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Schools have a lot on their plates with menu planning

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Officials say they want to offer healthy meals kids enjoy

By Calen McKinney

 

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Local schools work hard to provide nutritious and appetizing meals for students.

Following state and federal guidelines, school breakfasts and lunches are all balanced and contain vegetables, fruits, grains and meats.

At Campbellsville schools, all students eat breakfast and lunch for free.

The majority of Taylor County students eat free, though the number isn't quite high enough for all students to receive free lunch.

At Campbellsville and Taylor County Schools, federal reimbursements for the meals they serve is the largest source of revenue uses to operate their food service operations.

And, at Kentucky Christian Academy, students eat lunches from several local restaurants.

School begins Tuesday for KCA students and Wednesday for Campbellsville and Taylor County students. Lunch menus are published in each Thursday issue. For the first menus of this school year, see Monday's issue.

Campbellsville

Jeff Richardson, director of pupil personnel and food services, said about 62 percent of Campbellsville's students are directly certified to receive free lunch. To be directly certified, he said, students must be homeless or receiving KTAP benefits, Medicaid or food stamps.

And because so many directly qualify for the free meals, Richardson said, the school is eligible to receive full reimbursement for all meals the District serves.

Some school districts, Richardson said, have fewer students qualify, so they aren't eligible to receive full reimbursement. And, he said, that makes offering all meals for free not affordable.

Richardson said the Campbellsville district will receive $3.21 for each lunch it serves and $1.93 for each breakfast.

During the school year, Richardson said, a little more than 1,000 lunches are served each day.

Richardson said school menus are planned considering federal nutrition guidelines, along with Kentucky requirements, often more stringent than federal requirements.

He said there are maximum and minimum amounts of calories and specifics for what types of food products can be served. The requirements tend to change from year to year, he said.

Campbellsville's lunches are served with no trans fats and typically with a fruit and vegetable every day.

Richardson said the lunches are a bit different than foods students eat at home. And that takes some adjustment, he said.

"We try to find what they like," Richardson said. "They like it, but they're not used to it because they don't eat like that at home."

By getting students used to eating according to nutritional guidelines, he said, school officials hope to change their way of thinking.

And, Richardson said, by offering meals for free, students are less likely to feel embarrassed when telling lunch workers they qualify for free or reduced lunch.

For parents who want to buy lunch at school, Richardson said, the cost is $2.50. Parents can, and often do, come to school to eat with their children. Richardson said the schools prefer parents schedule that so enough food can be prepared.

For those who don't like the menu on a particular day, he said, students can ask for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The schools sometimes offer other choices, such as if they have some foods leftover from lunch the day before.

Richardson said high school students aren't allowed to leave school to eat lunch off campus.

Elementary students have a milk break, he said, and there are some drink machines on campus. Richardson said there are strict requirements for what can be offered in the machines, however. This year, elementary students can no longer have flavored water.

Taylor County

At Taylor County Schools, the percentage of students who are directly certified to receive free lunch falls short of the District being able to provide meals free for all students.

Kathy Phelps, school nutrition director, said she hopes the District will soon be at that point. Individual schools can qualify for the free meals, she said, and the elementary school is nearly there. But then the question becomes should the District offer free meals at only one of its three schools. For this school year, Phelps said, 863 students have been identified as being directly certified to receive free meals.

Phelps said the District served from 1,600 to 1,700 lunches a day during the last school year. Of those, 1,380 students received free lunch and 257 qualified for the reduced lunch price, though Phelps said the District doesn't charge those students. The remaining students paid regular price for lunch.

Lunch this year will cost $1.75 at the elementary and $2 at the middle and high schools. For adults, lunch will cost $3. Breakfast is $1 for all students and $1.25 for adults.

This year, the District will receive $3 for each free lunch served, $2.60 for all reduced lunches and 30 cents for full-price lunches served.

Phelps said the District can input its selections into a computer program to see if they meet federal and state nutrition guidelines, which vary from grade level to grade level. There are five components all lunches must have, she said, which include a fruit, vegetable, meat, meat alternative and milk.

Phelps said tastes vary, but staff members try to make lunches all students will enjoy eating.

"For the most part I think they do," she said. "We've tried to make changes and get things they seem to like."

For those who don't like the day's menu, Phelps said, there are other choices available.

Parents are welcome to come to school and eat with their children, Phelps said, and several do.

The high school students generally aren't allowed to leave school to eat lunch, Phelps said, though some programs are beginning that might allow them to.

Those who want to apply for free or reduced lunches can complete an application. Phelps and other staff members will review it and parents will be notified as to whether they are approved.

Kentucky Christian Academy

Kentucky Christian Academy students will pay $3.60 for lunch this year, which is an increase of 25 cents when compared to last year's costs. Administrator Lori Eubank said the increase is because of the rise in food costs.

On Mondays and Wednesdays, Eubank said, students will eat food from Phillips Lanes Bowling Alley. On Tuesdays and Fridays, Gatti's and Lee's Famous Recipe will take turns providing lunch. And on Thursdays, Creek Side Restaurant will provide lunch.

Milk costs 35 cents, Eubank said, and a cartoon is included in the $3.60 cost.

Lunches follow nutrition guidelines, she said, and contain a meat, side dish, vegetable and fruit.

About half of KCA's students typically order lunch, Eubank said, with the rest brining their meal to school.

Parents are welcome to eat with their children, and many do. Those wanting to do so should make arrangements with the school.