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Parents, officials, students discuss portion sizes in Jamestown Public Schools' lunches

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community Jamestown, 58401
Jamestown North Dakota 121 3rd St NW 58401

Portion-size was an issue of debate Tuesday as parents and students said the food they eat at lunch isn't enough to fill students' bellies.

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Jamestown Public School officials said the government limits what Food Services offers both from a nutritional and monetary standpoint. School Board members, district personnel, parents, students and stakeholders discussed the issue at the school board's regular meeting Tuesday.

Parent Maria Willer said she is the mother of two children who attend Jamestown High School. Both of them come home from school hungry, she said. So after speaking to board members, administrators and other school personnel, Willer ate lunch at the high school.

"I ate everything. I was hungry," she said, saying students can't perform to their highest potential if they are hungry during the school day.

About a dozen high-school aged students also attended the meeting. In a show of hands, they too said they leave lunch without feeling full.

The district charges $2.20 per high school student for lunch, said Shelley Mack, food services director and dietitian, but the average meal costs about $3 to serve. Elementary- and middle-school students pay different fees. Jamestown Public Schools serves portion sizes based off guidelines for the federal government. Some of the guidelines include 2 ounces of meat, one serving of grain or bread and no more than 30 percent of calories from fat.

School Board member Roy Musland questioned what would happen if the district didn't follow federal guidelines and served bigger portions of meat, for example.

"I know I couldn't live on carrots alone," Musland said.

Mack said the district could lose its federal subsidy of about $66,000 per year.

In addition to the entree, high school students are allowed as much salad bar as they want although they are only allowed one trip and cannot return for seconds. The salad bar varies by day but includes spinach and romaine lettuce, fruit as well as sometimes yogurt or pudding. The goal is to have students fill up on healthy foods like lettuce and apples rather than entrees like pizza and burgers.

"You can be full if you eat fruits and vegetables," she said.

Maintenance supervisor Jerome Wegner said students throw a lot of food away. He notices when he collects the trash.

Willer suggested the school offer bigger plates at the salad bar so students could take more fruits and vegetables.

That won't work, Mack said, because it costs the district too much money. If students are given larger plates, they'll take more than what they're paying for in the $2.20 price per lunch. Food Services is only allotted so much money for school lunch. If students took more from the salad bar, food services could risk going over budget.

Students at the high school are also allowed to "super-size" their lunch for $1.35, Mack said. "Super-size" means the student can purchase more of an entree.

School Board member Heidi Larson suggested the district add a wheat bun or slice of bread to the salad bar for students who are hungry but may not like fruits and vegetables. Vice-president of the School Board, Tanya Ostlie said some students don't like fruits and vegetables, but they should still be offered something.

"We can't fight this obesity issue by giving them what they want," Mack said.

Mack said adding wheat bread is a change she could consider.

Read Thursday's Sun for more coverage of the meeting.

Sun reporter Katie Ryan-Anderson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by e-mail at kryan@jamestownsun.com

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