Schools try to make grade with menus

McTigue Junior High School students may see changes at lunch and in vending machines.
McTigue Junior High School students may see changes at lunch and in vending machines.

Kids with the munchies at school may be hard-pressed to find a bag of high-fat chips or even soda by next year.

Administrators in nearly all Toledo-area and northwest Ohio school districts are preparing now with newly formed committees for the reauthorized Child Nutrition Act, signed into law by President Bush in 2004. It requires all school districts to put local "wellness plans" in place by the start of the 2006-2007 school year.

Among the changes, school leaders say, could be healthier menu items and eliminating junk food altogether - including selling it for fund-raising efforts.

Sue Chandler, food service director of Bowling Green City Schools, says the district doesn't serve soda pop and already offers healthy foods for students.

"The tricky part is that [the wellness policy] has to be measurable so you can tell if it is working," Ms. Chandler said. "Every food has a nutritional value, but it's in common sense. You can't have three Little Debbies for lunch."

Because student food purchases in Bowling Green are monitored by a computer system, parents can call the school and ask for their child's diet to be restricted to certain foods or snacks.

Michaeleen Rogers, supervisor of food-child nutrition services for Fremont City Schools, said the district formed a committee in September, 2004, to start drafting its new policy.

"They will set guidelines for the kind of foods that will be sold, and it may even get into where they will have different recess and lunch periods," she said.

The Child Nutrition Act, which includes school nutrition programs, addresses the problem of childhood obesity. According to the National Institutes of Health, one in five American children is overweight.

Diane Alliman, head cook for Genoa Area Schools, said she has seen evidence to support that statistic.

"I would say that there are more overweight children, but I feel it should start at home, and we can encourage it," Ms. Alliman said. "I think that we can't be fully responsible because if I offer broccoli and cheese, the kids won't like it if they don't get it at home."

The sale of soda pop in schools has been debated nationally. Although it can mean thousands of dollars in revenue, critics say it's wrong to give students constant access to sugar-laden, high-calorie drinks.

Rossford schools is among many that restrict the use of soda pop machines during class hours. Toledo Public Schools, the region's largest with just under 31,000 students, has added healthier foods in recent years, but it will likely make some changes next year.

"We might change what we offer in vending machines for students, and we might have new regulations for what schools can sell for fund-raising," said Craig Cotner, TPS chief academic officer.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: or 419-724-6171.