Clarification (10:17 a.m. on Aug 22, 2012) - Foxborough Schools Superintendent Debra Spinelli says the increase in student lunch prices had to happen to meet federal guidelines for school lunch programs and federal reimbursement that goes along with those regulations. The lunch price increase was not driven by the district offering healthier foods.
Student lunches will cost 25 cents more around the Foxborough School District this year to meet federal guidelines but it’s the improvements to food services that has caught Schools Superintendent Debra Spinelli's attention this summer.
Under the direction of new Food Services Director Allison Johnson, the district will be offering healthier foods and more "scratch" recipes. Johnson, along with Foxborough Schools Business Administrator Bill Yukna, highlighted several improvements to food services, which will take effect this year, at the Aug. 13 School Committee meeting.
At that meeting, the Foxborough School Committee voted unanimously to increase the price of student lunches by 25 cents to meet federal guidelines. Spinelli said student lunch prices were not raised because of the changes being made to food services.
"Increase in food prices would have had to happen anyway to meet federal guidelines for school lunch programs and federal reimbursement that goes along with those regulations," Spinelli said. "We were not meeting the minimal pricing. This is separate from our goals for improved food choices. The fact that we are looking to improve our program was not what drove the increase in school lunches."
Lunch will now cost $2.50 for students at Foxborough’s three elementary schools and $2.75 for students at Ahern Middle and Foxborough High Schools. The price increase takes effect when school opens on Sept. 4.
Spinelli called the changes in food services "exciting" and is pleased the district will be offering healthier and more appetizing food choices for students while enabling them to apply their wellness lessons in the cafeteria.
“We are at the point where we want [students] to go down the hall to the cafeteria and apply their food choices,” said Spinelli.
Currently, the district collects data from students before and after nutrition lessons to measure the impact it has on building student awareness towards a healthy lifestyle.
Spinelli believes Johnson’s collaboration with the Wellness Department this year will improve the programming around the district and extend learning from the classroom to the cafeteria - something the superintendent deemed "necessary."
“We know that even though we comply with healthy foods and all the federal regulations, we know we can offer more enticing foods that kids would want to eat and do more things that engage kids in trying more foods,” Spinelli said.
To make those "necessary improvements" across the district, Johnson and Yukna highlighted several changes to food services, which will take effect this year:
- Fresher and better quality ingredients
“[Johnson] will be trying recipes that are healthier … parents will like it more … kids will actually try it, want to eat it and have a balanced meal,” said Spinelli.
- Increase in procurement of local foods, especially fruits and vegetables
- More “scratch” cooked recipes and limit highly processed foods
“I think [Johnson] is going to try a smoothie bar at the high school and lots of things to improve our food service [like] actual recipes rather than purchasing food, baking it and putting it out there,” Spinelli said.
- More staff training on scratch cooking, culinary skills and nutrition
- Collaboration with Wellness Department to help connect the cafeteria to the classroom and create joint nutrition and wellness messages
“[Johnson] is going to connect with the wellness department on curriculum,” Spinelli said. “We have a partnership at the Y for healthy eating. Caitlin Hurley comes into our schools and does food activities with kids – reading labels, trying foods from around the world. We’ve got strong partners and all the pieces in place and we were looking for the glue. Our new food services director is the glue.”
- Improve aesthetics of lunchroom (walls, serving lines, etc.) to create an atmosphere that is conducive of healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle
- Creation of parent and student “Food Councils” for elementary, middle and high schools to create an open line of communication between food service and the school community and invite feedback for initiatives
Spinelli is eager to see the improvements in action and believes Johnson is the ideal person to help the district achieve its food service and wellness goals.
“She is young, dynamic, has degrees in the area. So we are going to try some really interesting things,” Spinelli said. “We are all really looking forward to the food service program being improved to the level that families notice it and kids are talking about it.”
This is the second 25-cent increase in school lunch prices around the district in two years.