Follow food rules or forfeit funding
The St. Michael-Albertville food service director told the school board that federal food guidelines must be followed or the school district risks losing funding.
Food service director Delores Helgeson reminded board members Doug Birk, Jeanne Holland, Jeff Lindquist, Drew Scherber, Carol Steffens and Gayle Weber that the Health Hunger-Free Act (HHFKA) was signed into law December 2010 and directs the Department of Agriculture to update nutrition standards for the National School Lunch Program.
Under the new program, Helgeson said new meals patterns are based on nutrition and physical activity habits of an average student. Key changes include requirements about calories, amount of fruits and vegetables, added variety of vegetables, grains, milk, saturated fat and sodium.
Helgeson said that prior to HHFKA, there was a minimum, but not maximum, guideline for calories, protein and grains/breads, and no guidelines for sodium and saturated fat, and that all varieties of milk were acceptable. Now she said maximum calorie amounts have been added, as well as guidelines on sodium, saturated fat and milk products. That means all menus had to be updated, as well as working with suppliers to update their products.
Helgeson cautioned that districts that do not comply with the new guidelines will lose federal and state reimbursement and commodities, and would not be permitted to participate in the free and reduced program, and that lunch prices would be increased to offset the loss.
Helgeson told the board she is meeting with regional food service directors for best practices, and with manufacturers as they introduce new products.
The food service director also discussed concerns that students go away hungry because they don’t like the selections. She said if a student selects all the food items that are available, they wouldn’t go away hungry. Also, she said students are not charged for any additional fruits and vegetables and are welcomed back for seconds.
Lastly, Helgeson said the food service department offers, versus serves, five food groups, and that students have to select three of the five for a lunch to be reimbursable.
The board thanked Helgeson for her effort in meeting the guidelines, and commended her on a thorough presentation.
In further news, MSBA Dist. 9 Director Karen Kirschner was present to discuss the state funding inequity issue that STMA has been targeting as a legislative priority.
Board chairperson Birk said the board was glad to have an opportunity to personally share the board’s top legislative priorities about school funding and equalization. He said the board hoped she would serve as an advocate for its legislative priorities at the MSBA.
Kirschner recommended Birk put the information in the form of a resolution and bring it forward at the next MSBA annual meeting, which would go through to the Delegate Assembly.
Birk requested MSBA allow for extended time at the Delegate Assembly to discuss school funding and endorse the need for more equitable funding.
In related matters, Supt. Jim Behle updated the board about outreach activity regarding the board’s legislative priorities. Besides publicity on the matter, he crafted a draft letter template that can be distributed to community members who would like to contact their legislators and governor regarding this issue. He also mentioned the group of community members and parents who will represent the legislative priorities by attending the April 3 Day at the Capitol.
The board also directed Behle to provide a power point presentation for board members to use, as well as a brief piece of key talking points.
In other action, the board:
DISCUSSED the process for selection of property and liability insurance carrier and agent. The board agreed they would like to keep the agent local if all things are equal, and agreed to as many competitive bids as possible.
APPROVED the addition of a special education teacher for autism-related disabilities (ASD) at St. Michael Elementary School due to increased student numbers. Fieldstone and Big Woods elementary schools have ASD programs.