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Federal school lunch rules not so easy to swallow for some Derry officials

DERRY - Federal guidelines requiring students to eat healthier lunches may end up leaving kids hungrier than they should be, according to several people in the school district.

In order to receive federal reimbursement that amounts to six cents per meal, school districts must meet certain requirements in regards to portion size and the types of foods that are served.

However, according to school district business manager Jane Simard, the FDA requirements have led to smaller portion sizes and foods that some students do not like or eat as much of.

"I think we do a good job here and (the federal government) should leave it to local control that we can put out healthy meals students want to eat, because if they are not eating them, that defeats the purpose," said Simard.

School Board Chairman Brenda Willis has been especially frustrated with the federal guidelines and the impact it has had on school lunches this year.

She said a parent recently approached her and said her son was coming home hungry because the schools were limiting the amount of food he could eat.

"They are giving him food he doesn't like and he is throwing it away," said Willis. "This has been my concern all along. I know it is driven by the federal government."

Superintendent Laura Nelson said she understands the concerns expressed by Willis and some parents.

"As the mother of a son, I can relate to a child coming home who had a school lunch but didn't have enough to eat," she said.

Nelson said students can get extra portions or additional side items if they pay for them.

"If parents are concerned that their children are hungry, I recommend that they contact their child's teacher," said Nelson. She said the teachers and the food services department would be happy to work with the parents to see how they can get additional food if they need it.

"If children are coming home hungry, that's a problem," Nelson said.

Willis said it doesn't make sense that students have to buy extra food if they are not getting enough to eat.

Simard said she agreed with Willis' concerns.

"Isn't it the point of the food services program to feed all the kids and make sure they don't go home hungry?" she asked.

She said the food services department is working to the best of its ability under the regulations to provide healthy meals that the students also enjoy.

"It really puts food services in a sticky situation," she said. "They do the best they can and make nice, new healthy dishes that comply with the number of grains and everything else that has to be on the plate."


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