New lunch program draws mixed reviews

BREWSTER -- The new lunch program at Round Lake-Brewster schools has drawn praise from elementary students, disapproval from high-schoolers and mixed reviews from teachers.

BREWSTER -- The new lunch program at Round Lake-Brewster schools has drawn praise from elementary students, disapproval from high-schoolers and mixed reviews from teachers.

"The lunch program changed because of financial reasons," said John Cselovszki, Round Lake-Brewster superintendent.

The schools lost $15,000 last year on their lunch program. During the summer, administrators started looking for other options and advertised for bids. Of the two companies that competed for the contract, Lunchtime Solutions was most cost-effective for the Round Lake-Brewster school district, which has an enrollment of less than 300 students.

The school still had to increase the price of school lunches from $1.80 to $2.05, but the lunch program is now guaranteed to break even or come close.

Elementary students now get a choice between two entrees, and high-schoolers choose among three main dishes.


All grades get all-you-can-eat salad bars featuring a variety of fresh and canned fruit and raw vegetables. Two types of salad dressing are available. Students can also eat all the bread they want, with plenty of peanut butter, butter and jelly available as toppings.

Elementary students love being able to choose what they'll eat, though they do get sent back for fruit or vegetables if they try to leave the line without either.

"Pudding doesn't count," paraprofessional Karen Obermoller told kindergartner Elizabeth Behles, and sent her back to the salad bar to pick out another food group.

Behles settled on a couple Red Delicious apple pieces and sat down with her friends. But she could have chosen canned peaches, canned fruit cocktail, celery or carrot sticks or lettuce with ranch or French dressing. Salad bar offerings in the past have included mandarin oranges and pineapples.

Elementary students seem to like having a choice.

"You get to pick your own food," said second-grader Madison Erpestad.

High-schoolers, meanwhile, aren't wild about the changes to their lunch program.

"The portions were bigger, and they could get free seconds," Cselovszki said of the old high school lunch program.


New portion sizes are based on federal nutritional guidelines, and if students want a second portion of the entrée, they need to pay for it. They don't need to pay for additional trips through the salad bar or for additional pieces of bread.

"It's really a healthier choice," Cselovszki said.

No matter what other changes were made, free seconds that added to the lunch program's deficit simply weren't an option anymore, according to Cselovszki.

"Obviously, we're not here to make money, but we don't want to lose tens of thousands, either," Cselovszki added.

Some teachers worry about elementary schoolers wasting food by taking it from the salad bar only to throw it away afterward.

Obermoller, who observes students over the lunch hour and keeps track of lunch purchases, believes children throw away more of the main entrees they are required to take than the food they choose themselves.

Tuesday's two entrees, beef stroganoff and corn dogs, represented about half the food students didn't eat at lunch that day, but their least favorite seemed to be peas. Many students preferred lettuce or carrots instead, and some students who did take peas ended up thinking better of it and tossing them.

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