PARISHVILLE, N.Y. (WWTI) — The Parishville-Hopkinton Central School District is working to enhance its food service after a photo of a school lunch went viral earlier this year.
This is through the District’s Reimagining School Lunch group, which was formed days after the photo, which included a lunch tray that sparked community attention and disrupted parent groups.
This post included a photo, pictured above, that was sent to Christopher Vangellow by his child on January 12. The photo showed four chicken nuggets, white rice and a side of carrots on a cafeteria tray.
In his post, Vangellow described these lunches as “a bit lacking,” “not very appetizing,” and said that his children have been “been complaining that since the lunches are now free for everyone, the portions have dropped.”
According to PHCSD Superintendent, Dr. William E. Collins, the Reimaging School Lunch group has now met twice and successfully discussed standards and proposed solutions.
At the first meeting, the group addressed USDA regulations for the National School Lunch Program and how this impacts Parishville-Hopkinton.
These regulations limit salt and sugar intakes, caloric intakes by age range, fruits and vegetable offerings and portion sizing. Superintendent Collins said that the District could not afford to continue to offer a school lunch program without federal meal reimbursement, so the PHSCD is required to follow all regulations.
However, the second meeting focused on things the District can do internally to address the quality of meal program for students.
The main concern of the meeting, Dr. Collins said was making meals more “appetizing and appealing.”
To make this happen, the group discussed adding more variety to the menu, such as including different styles of french fries, finding ways to spice up rice, having a greater variety of meat and introducing vegetables such as asparagus.
The group also coined the term “strategic portioning” during the second meeting. This followed the suggestion of using less breading to allow for larger portions in order to be in compliance with USDA guidelines.
Students shared that they would like to have alternative hot meal options as they expressed concerns regarding the consistency of options. They asked that the glass front refrigerator be turned to face the students so students at the end of the line have the same choices as those at the front of the line.
Parents also asked for more fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables in place of canned fruits and veggies as they are typically less appealing.
Collins also said there was a strong interest shown by the group regarding the return of a salad bar. This would require a dedicated staff member in the cafeteria, outside of the kitchen area, with a second register next to the salad bar.
Students also expressed that they want their dining space to be more “attractive.” Proposed methods to do this included better seating arrangements, modern school cafeteria food furniture and classroom art.
In addition, the group asked to survey PHCS staff on their concerns and ideas for improving the district’s school meal program, as well as other children.
Parishville-Hopkinton’s Reimagining School Lunch group is set to meet again at the end of March.