Parents concerned over new school lunch, district insists it's healthy

Pop-tarts, Rice Krispies among the choices
Posted at 4:53 PM, Mar 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-01 20:22:49-05

Pop-Tarts, Rice Krispies Treats and animal crackers are among some of the new options on a school lunch menu in Oconomowoc, and while the school district insists the options are healthy, some parents disagree.

"It's all very processed foods and snacks," said Lauren Flint, whose son attends kindergarten at Summit Elementary School. 

She says she normally packs a lunch for her son, but that didn't stop the red flags when she saw the school's new "Fun on the Run" menu options. 

"If he has the option between eating crackers and something healthy, he's going to choose crackers or snack food," she said. "I think as a school, their responsibility is to teach the kids school subjects but also about how to live healthy."

The new menu option began March 1 at the school. Each day, the meal includes yogurt and string cheese, a whole grain item and a fruit serving. The whole grain items include a blueberry muffin, a bagel, a Rice Krispies Treat and a strawberry Pop-Tart. 

"I personally would not recommend that as a whole grain option," said Lisa Hansen, a clinical dietician at Columbia St. Mary's. "I think there are other whole grain options out there. There are some really great granola bars out there."

Fruit options on the menu include an apple, an orange, a juice cup or a fruit cup. 

The "Fun on the Run" menu option is offered in addition to three hot lunch choices. While the school meets USDA standards for protein, whole grains and fruit, Hansen said she noticed one crucial thing missing from the menu. 

"There are no vegetables listed on here," she said. 

She also noticed the menu includes a lot of sugar, not enough fiber and protein only from dairy sources. 

"I think this would be fine one day a week as a kind of treat," Hansen said. "'Fun on the Run' I think that's a great title but I don't know if this should be something that should be done everyday." 

The director of food and nutrition services at the Oconomowoc Area School District was not available for an interview. She sent a statement that read in part: 

"Sodexo developed the Fun on the Run bag as a fourth option for lunch because we understand traditional hot lunch is not for everyone. All bags contain items that are whole grain, low fat, and meet the USDA standards on calories, fat, sugar and sodium...A bonus option is that students can still go to the fresh fruits and vegetable bar to receive additional fruits and veggies."

Hansen said she doesn't think elementary age students will grab vegetables when they have the "Fun on the Run" meal in front of them. 

"Anecdotally when they get this fun little bag and they see all these great treats in there, I don't think they're going to go seek out that salad bar," she said. 

She also said if a student chooses this meal everyday, they might develop an unhealthy food pattern where they will only want to eat food like that at every meal. 

The district's statement also read: 

"Oconomowoc Area School District just completed a very successful state audit of school lunches where the Department of Public Instruction audits all processes and menus. The following commendations were noted on final report:

'Thank you to all food service staff for their positive attitudes, willingness to assist with the review process, and for their dedication to providing excellent customer service to students. Your efforts make a difference

Oconomowoc Area School District offers students a beautiful garden bar full of fruit and vegetable options that add color and variety to student meals. Offering multiple entrée choices is a great way to ensure customer satisfaction while allowing students the ability to serve themselves empowers them to make healthy choices.

Keep up the great work! It is a great asset for the district to have a chef in house to assist the director with the school meal program.'"

However, a spokesman with the Department of Public Instruction confirmed to TODAY's TMJ4 that the "Fun on the Run" menu option was not part of the state's review during a recent site visit. 

Because of our inquiry, the state went back to the school to ensure that students are made aware of the salad bar as an option in addition to the "Fun on the Run" menu. Because the school offers the salad bar, they meet state standards for school lunches. 

The school district also said families can restrict this option for their children by alerting their teacher. 

An additional statement was sent by the district to TODAY's TMJ4 following the original statement. It reads: 

"Due to concerns about healthy options in the Fun on the Run Bag, Sodexo has made the decision to allow students to go to the fresh fruits and vegetable bar. The Department of Public Instruction reached out yesterday to advise we make that available for the students receiving the Fun on the Run Bag. In order to do this, we will be telling the students that they have that option when they pick up their bag. Students will be given a paper boat that they can use to put fruits or veggies in from the bar, this is a self-service station."



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