Healthy School Lunch Sales Decrease Slightly In Grafton

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Representatives from Whitsons update the Grafton School Committee on the lunch program.
Representatives from Whitsons update the Grafton School Committee on the lunch program. Photo Credit: Richard Price

GRAFTON, Mass. — Student lunch purchases have declined 2 percent since newer, healthier menus were implemented, say three representatives from the company that serves meals in the Grafton schools.  

Although financial numbers were being tabulated, the decline was primarily due to price increases and  resistance from parents and students who object to larger portions of fruit and vegetables, said Joseph Armenti, a district manager for the Whitsons Culinary Group.

"Students have to choose at least one fruit or vegetable on their tray," said Armenti to the School Committee in reference to the new state and federal mandates for reimbursable school lunch programs. 

A negative media campaign and student protests on YouTube have added to the resistance, he said. But Grafton's drop is not significant, and students are adjusting as Whitsons tweaks the menus, Armenti said. 

Whitsons brought in an executive chef three times to make adjustments on the salad bar in the high school and develop premade tossed salads in the middle school, he said. 

School Committee secretary Teri Turgeon asked whether food waste was being measured. There is less waste in Grafton because students have been in the healthier meal program longer and have had more time to adjust to the new menus, Armenti said.  

Also, Grafton High School Principal James Pignataro sought approval from the School Committee to revamp student report cards by Jan. 23. He and a subcommittee developed a new version: Traditional grades are on one side, and on the flip side is a chart for teacher comments plus a score of how well the student is progressing in the school's "core values and beliefs," he said.  

The score would cover, among others, behavior development, critical thinking, and enhancing knowledge and skill with technology. 

"The opportunity to do this now is perfect," he said. The plan is to roll out the new design to parents, then tweak the new reports throughout the remainder of the school year as feedback comes in. 

The school committee will review the new design and continue the discussion Dec. 17. 

Also, Special Education Director Arnold Lundwall proposed an increase in the fiscal 2014 special education budget from $2.36 million to $2.65 million to cover the rising enrollment of special needs students and the costs associated in transportation, collaborative resources, therapy and out-of-district tuition. 

Superintendent James Cummings proposed increasing the technology budget by 7 percent in fiscal year 2014. This would cover new hires on the technical staff as well as infrastructure and hardware upgrades, he said. 

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Comments (5)

Grafton should take a page from the conservative playbook. In the 80's the Reagan administration declared catsup a vegetable, you could lose that ugly 2% statistic by declaring catsup a vegetable in Grafton.

The proposed new report card sounds interesting, but complicated. There could be a lot of teacher embarrassment when 4 or 5 teachers say a student is technology proficient and one teacher rates the student as ineffective. Since technology is in all classes, I'll venture to guess, that this is going to become a reporting nightmare for the union.

A 2% drop does not seem significant. If a student is not purchasing the lunches at school because he or she does not like what is being offered and instead brings lunch from home or elsewhere, isn't that his or her choice (or for a younger child, the choice of the parent)? I'm not sure I see what the problem is. I think the school system needs to be a little cautious about pushing only fruit or vegetables. Protein keeps you full longer and some children, particularly athletes, have higher protein or carbohydrate needs. If my healthy child complained the school lunches were not filling and they were hungry, wouldn't I be making the correct decision as parent to provide him or her with an alternative?

Folks, unless we get our act together, obesity, diabetes and all the chronic diseases that go along with eating crap are going to bankrupt this country. You and I all are paying through our tax dollars for the treatment of these conditions in the young and old. So I'm all in favor of providing healthy school lunches to kids. No, that doesn't mean quinoa and chickpeas, but continuing to provide lots of fruits and vegetables and lean proteins. The past couple years the Grafton menus have vastly improved and they've done a good job of walking that fine line between offering what's nutritious and what the kids will eat. Stay the course! If your kid is thowing out their meals, then pack a sandwich for them.

I don't have kids in the schools yet, so my opinion is very limited here, but just for fun here it is:

Putting healthy food on someone's plate does not mean they will eat it. Ultimately, I think kids need to learn about the consequences of what they're eating, and then learn to make their own choices. A one-size-fits-all lunch program coming down from the top might leave some kids lacking nutritionally and others resorting to buying 'black market' twinkies on the playground. It's nice to see healthier lunches being sold, but ultimately, it's still up to parents to teach/work with their kids about healthy eating (or if a teacher notices a potential problem, politely discussing it with the parents, while maintaining respect for the parents' authority).

"behavior development, critical thinking, and enhancing knowledge and skill with technology" These things seem pretty subjective... wouldn't they typically just be included in a 'comments' section? Is healthy eating going to be on the new report card... *kidding* ;)