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Dec 22, 2015 4:31 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Sag Harbor School District Opts Out Of National School Breakfast And Lunch Program Rules

Dec 23, 2015 9:06 AM

The Sag Harbor School District this week opted out of the national school breakfast and lunch program for its middle and high school students, saying the district’s meal program does not meet national nutritional standards, a requirement for reimbursement of costs.

“We are in complete compliance, except for the component on meal pattern and nutritional quality,” said District Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi at a Monday night Board of Education meeting. “The reason why we aren’t in compliance with that component is because of the way our school is set up.”

Sag Harbor has a combined middle and high school, and there are not enough staff members and equipment to provide students in grades six to eight and nine to 12 with different lunches to meet two separate sets of guidelines mandated by the national program, she explained.

For instance, students in grades six to eight need to have at least a half cup of fruit every day for lunch, while students in grades nine to 12 have to have at least 1 cup of fruit for the meal to be reimbursable. There also are different ranges for the two age groups for how many calories a meal should be.

The State Department of Education administers the national school breakfast and lunch program and would conduct an on-site evaluation of the middle and high school to determine compliance.

If it finds that the school does not comply with the program's guidelines, it could have to pay back reimbursements from the last three years, the time period when the guidelines were in effect. “If they do come in before we opt out,” Ms. Buscemi said of the state, “they could take back $53,000, which is what we collected for breakfast and lunch reimbursements from 2013 to 2016.”

The district will ensure that students who now receive free and reduced-price meals continue to do so, using the general fund budget to cover that cost and any lost reimbursements—an amount that would still be less than the potential impact of non-compliance, she said.

Ms. Buscemi added that there are several other differences between the two age groups in terms of nutritional requirements, such as the amounts of grains, sodium and vegetables that must be provided. “We would have to be producing different lunches each day for those different grade groups, which is impossible with the equipment and staff we have downstairs,” she said.

Nevertheless, school officials said they have ensured that the district will still mirror the state’s nutritional guidelines, though they will not duplicate them exactly, and that students will still receive healthy meals.

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Sag Harbor UFSD has a real problem with providing healthy food and appropriate times for the students to eat. With no cafeteria in the elementary school and a stove free kitchen for the 6th through 12th grade, prepared food options are severely limited. Selling Snapple and diet Snapple beverages in the cafeteria aren't making up for the lack of freshly prepared food. With 6th grade lunch periods starting at 10:25AM they round out their complete dietary disfunction.

Rather than opt out, ...more
By Arnold Timer (324), Sag Harbor on Dec 22, 15 9:14 PM
8k run & 3 mile walk, Agawam Park, Southampton Rotary Club fundraiser