School lunch program, cafeteria workers great The week...

LETTERS

October 14, 2001

School lunch program, cafeteria workers great

The week of Oct. 15 is National School Lunch Week. This special week is set aside to recognize not only the school lunch program, but also the many cafeteria workers who provide nutritional meals to students every day that school is in session.

What most people don't realize about the Carroll County Public School System's food services program is that it is self-supporting. Approximately 20 percent of the food services income comes from federal reimbursements. This is because the program is part of the National School Lunch Program. The state contributes 1 percent. The rest of the income comes from students paying for meals. All earnings go back into the program and are allocated for salaries and food.

Some of our school cafeterias also provide meals for senior citizens and Head-Start organizations. The individual schools contract with the organizations, and all revenues go back into the food services program.

Congress created the National School Lunch Program in 1946 after discovering that many young war recruits were in poor physical condition. Congress saw the program as a national readiness measure because poor nutrition had endangered our war effort. Congress authorized the School Breakfast Program when it passed the Child Nutrition Act in 1966.

Currently, lunch is available in all of our schools. Breakfast is served in 19 schools. Coordinating the food services program with federal and state government policies and regulations makes it possible for all students to be eligible for a balanced, nutritional meal during the school day.

Serving more than 1,679,000 school lunches and 87,000 school breakfasts in one year is a monumental task that requires quite a bit of skill and coordination. All 170 food services employees must receive 16 hours of sanitation training. Courses are also offered on menu planning, nutrition and food preparation. The American School Food Services Association certifies the majority of staff. To maintain certification in this association, employees must participate in professional activities.

And how do you find out what's being served for lunch? Menus are distributed or posted in each school. They are also published in local newspapers and announced on radio and television stations. You can also find menus on the Carroll County Public School System's Web site at www.carr.org/ccps.

For the 2001-2002 school year, the cost of breakfast is 95 cents. Lunch costs $1.50 for elementary students and $1.65 for middle and high school students. High school students can also buy a super-size lunch for $2.15.

Upon approval, students may also be eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals. Application forms and guidelines for determining a student's eligibility are distributed to each child at the beginning of the school year. Parents who feel that their children may be eligible under federal guidelines should contact their school principal.

There is an ongoing study here in Maryland that has shown that academic performance, school attendance, and attention spans increase while behavior problems decrease when students receive nutritious meals, especially breakfast. Students who eat nutritious meals generally work faster, behave better, are more creative and make fewer mistakes.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture sets the guidelines for the school lunch program to provide one-third of the nutritional requirements of students. They require that each meal include milk, fruit, a vegetable, bread or a bread alternative, and a meat or other protein-rich food like cheese.

The food services workers in our schools are caring individuals who do an outstanding job each and every day. They are genuinely concerned about students and are always willing to take a child in need under their wing. Sometimes when a student is having a bad day, a friendly face in the cafeteria can make a difference.

Our food services workers take pride in providing good meals. They try to make mealtime fun and nutritious by planning special promotions such as Johnny Appleseed's Birthday and Super Bowl Day. In Carroll County, many food items such as cookies and muffins are still homemade. Many of our cafeteria workers participate in bake-offs here in the county. Winners go on to compete at the state level. Carroll County usually wins a number of the prizes.

In closing, I would like to thank our food services staff for the many services they provide to students and staff in our schools. By honoring them, we acknowledge the important role they play in the health and well-being of our children.

C. Scott Stone

Hampstead

Member, Board of Education of Carroll County

Proposed guidelines for county government

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