An apple a day may be good, but two is too much for many students.
That’s what one Hamden High School senior told the Board of Education Tuesday.
Leah Kesselman is starting her second year as a student representative on the board, and one of her responsibilities is bringing her peer’s concerns to the attention of board members. And on Tuesday, at the board's first meeting of the new school year, she told them how students are upset that they are now forced to take two pieces of fruit as part of their lunches, and how that fruit usually ends up in the garbage.
“This year there are a lot of changes in the cafeteria,” she said, referring to new federal mandates that call for more fruit and vegetables to be included in school lunches. “I’ve been asked to bring up how kids are being forced to take two pieces of fruit, and subsequently they are being thrown out, and it’s an incredible waste.”
The district has no choice but to require the students to take the additional fruit, Business Manager Michael Belden said.
“We are seeing dramatic changes in what we are required to do on the state and federal levels,” he said, and there are more to come, including a decrease in sodium levels and even more fruit requirements.
“We are going to have to take a look and see what we can do” about the student’s concerns, he said.
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And it’s not just the high school students who aren’t fans of fruit, other educators said – the wasted fruit is a problem at all education levels, including at the elementary schools.
“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink,” board chairman Michael D’Agostino said. “Maybe we could put it aside and donate it.”
But board member Jim Pascarella said that once fruit is handed out to students, it could probably not be taken back and donated.
“Once you hand it to someone, you can’t take it back,” he said. “If they chose not to accept it, you might be able to put it aside but once you hand it to someone you can’t take it back – you have to be careful with something like that.”
“Instead of years and years of fruit being thrown into bins to be fed to horses, maybe students should be talked to about making better choices,” board member John Keegan said. “If we hope to change eating habits, perhaps a better approach is to have teachers why this is being presented.
“I’m not saying it’s a great idea to force kids to take two fruits,” he said, “but it’s a mandate.”
It also might be a good idea to see what kinds of fruit the students would like to see offered, Kesselman suggested.
“I know I’m seeing an awful lot of apples and oranges,” she said. A wider variety, including items like fruit salad, might be more palatable and end up consumed rather than thrown away, she said.
The issue was referred to the board's Operations Committee, which will investigate and report back to the full board.