Sheridan School Board discusses school lunches at board meeting

SHERIDAN – At their regular October meeting the Sheridan School Board discussed revisions to the school breakfast and lunch program that will keep the district in compliance with the United States Department of Agriculture guidelines and eligible for federal funding for school meals.

Superintendent Kim Harding explained that the changes implemented by U.S. Department of Agriculture prescribe weekly maximums of meats, grains, calories and other nutrients. Other requirements include only serving low-fat or fat-free milk and eliminating the salad bar, but students will be able to have a chef salad as an alternative meal.

Harding said she has been working with school cook Tanya Bendon and trustees Russ Hamilton and Therese Sutton to balance the lunch program, and asked for a directive from the board to visit West Yellowstone to learn about their lunch program and adopt meal plans outlined by the Montana Office of Public Instruction.

“Our plan is to serve a reimbursable meal, and then encourage the students to come back for seconds,” said Harding. “If we follow this required plan, we will be reimbursed an additional six cents for each meal served. This is more than enough to cover the costs incurred by implementing these changes.”

“If we implement these meal plans, the serving size, nutrients and all record keeping elements are provided, avoiding additional district costs,” she continued. “If we don’t adopt these meals, we could lose our program.”

According to a fact sheet on calories in school meals published on the OPI website, the weekly ranges of the amount of food served “allow menu planners the flexibility to offered favored items and adjust accordingly throughout the week.” There are no daily maximums on grains and meat/meat alternates, and there are no specific maximums on fruits, vegetables and milk. Under the new science-based standards school meals are “right-sized” and reflect the appropriate balance between food groups, the fact sheet explains.

“There is a lot of food there, and what a nutritionist will say is if you eat the right kinds of food you wont be hungry,” Harding explained. “So I think that’s what the USDA is really trying to go for.”

Trustee Therese Sutton said she visited the school cafeteria in West Yellowstone to observe their school breakfast and lunch program, which serves breakfast to 40 students and lunch to 185 on average between two staff members.

“I would really encourage it,” Sutton said of her visit to West Yellowstone’s school cafeteria. “I think it would be a great opportunity and they are very open to having us come over there.”

In other news the board approved first readings of dress code and attendance policies from the Montana School Board Association. Harding recommended the adoption of the policies because they are general enough in nature that a change to district policy will not be necessary.

The Sheridan School District will also host a Harvest Dinner for senior citizens on Wednesday, Oct. 24.

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