Fewer Shrewsbury Students Using Meal Services

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The Shrewsbury School Committee learned Nov. 7 that fewer students are eating school meals.
The Shrewsbury School Committee learned Nov. 7 that fewer students are eating school meals. Photo Credit: John Swinconeck (file)

SHREWSBURY, Mass. — As the Shrewsbury School Lunch program is adapting to more stringent federal and state nutritional requirements, it’s also facing a loss of revenue.

In a report to the school committee Wednesday, food services director Beth Nichols said that, for the first time, Shrewsbury High School’s meal programs are no longer serving the majority of students, who are bringing in more food from home or places such as Dunkin’ Donuts.

“Sales are drastically down,” said Nichols, pointing to a loss of $52,000 in 2011-2012.

New dietary requirements were put in place starting in 2012 that would, in part, reduce fats and calories.

For example, whereas previous requirements required no specific vegetables, new requirements call for weekly requirements of dark green, red/orange, legumes and starch. And, where previously whole grains were encouraged, beginning in 2014-2015, all grains must be whole grain.

Milk must now be fat free or 1 percent, and flavored milks are not allowed.

Students are required to take fruits and vegetables, but Nicols said that a “huge” amount has been wasted.

According to data provided by food services to the school committee, the average high school student spends $3 a day on vending machine items.

However, the dietary restrictions are being extended to vending machines, where sugary drinks, sports drinks, and iced teas, among other items, are no longer allowed.

Superintendent Joseph Sawyer said that it’s difficult for to quantify the government’s one-size fits all calorie restrictions. For example, student athletes may require a larger caloric intake than others. That may be why students are choosing more food from sources other than the lunch program.

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I sure hope this isn't a surprise to anyone. Frankly speaking, the food served is just "so called healthy" garbage. It's pre-made, unappetizing, VERY rarely warm and just not enough food. I have a child at the HS and one at Oak - she pays $3.25 for such "meals" as 3 cold mozzarella sticks, a milk and an apple [which she can't eat cuz she has braces] - how is it nutritional if they're starving by the time they get home?! Prices go up, quality and portions go down. These are growing children folks ... So I say it again, the loss of sales can't and shouldn't be a surprise to ANYONE!

While I agree that the way students have eaten in the past, was not the healthiest (pizza offered multiple times in a week, for instance), new regulations have taken school meals to the opposite extreme. What is offered now is just not good food. Waste is going up because the food choices offered are not appetizing.

My son is a growing 12-year-old boy. He comes home from school ravenous because the food offered in the cafeteria is unappetizing. On top of that, one of my son's biggest complaints is the size of the milk (regular milk) has gone down and he is not allowed to purchase an extra milk. I have felt for years that flavored, sugary milks were not an option, but I'm talking about low-fat regular milk. When did low-fat milk become the enemy?

As a result of these new stringent guidelines, kids are bringing food from home, resorting to bringing Dunkin Donuts fast food, and eating from vending machines. While it is convenient to bring food from home, are those meals balanced and healthy? I seriously doubt that Dunkin's and vending machine offerings are providing the nutrients, caloric & fat levels that the government is trying to put into place with these new guidelines.

Sadly, this problem, and it is a problem, is not confined to Shrewsbury. I have seen coverage on the Today show and CNN regarding these same concerns over the new guidelines.