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Potsdam students take liking to the ala carte line

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By RYNE R. MARTIN

POTSDAM - An expanded a la carte line at the high school is helping the Potsdam Central School District cope with the challenges posed by fewer students buying their lunches at the school cafeterias.

Food Services Manager David J. Gravlin told school board members Tuesday the reintroduction of the a la carte line on Oct. 22 has been a success story to date. “You can see quite a bit of difference. We’ve seen positive results,” he said.

He said last year the high school averaged 157 students a day utilizing the a la carte line; the average been 291 students a day in the first two weeks of November. “Kids are taking it and enjoying it. Hopefully it will last for a long time. Parents may tire of paying for that, and we could also a la carte regulations down the road,” Mr. Gravlin said.

The a la carte line features salads, bagels and snacks that have proven to be a popular alternative to the smaller sized healthier choice meals that are now being served in school cafeterias.

“They are getting more of what they want, but they are paying for it,” Superintendent Patrick H. Brady said.

School officials told Congressman William Owens, D-Plattsburgh, when he visited the school in September that fewer students were eating the school-supplied meals and more were brown bagging their lunches because of the mandated change in school menus this year, which required more vegetables and fruits and smaller portion sizes.

The new standards, which include more whole grain, fat free or low fat milk, “right-sized portions” and limits on saturated fat are part of the United States Department of Agriculture’s change to meals served in schools.

The healthier meal requirements are a key component of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was championed by the First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her Let’s Move! Campaign and signed into law by President Obama.

Mr. Gravlin said the sales for the month of October were up approximately $5,000 from September to almost $15,500 in October. But school officials said that was partially attributable to more days when lunch was served at school in additional to the a la carte sales.

School officials said they are still averaging a loss of over 200 meals a day in sales from last year. That has translated into a drop in food purchases and a slight decrease in salaries, according to the food services manager.

Mr. Brady said expenditures for food service to date are $123,578 down from the $144,000 spent in that same time period last year. “Part of that is the reduction in food purchases,” he said.

Mr. Gravlin acknowledged it remains a challenge to balance expenses and revenues in the food service operation “We’re still struggling to feed kids reimbursable meals. We’re trying to make up for that so we don’t end up in a big hole. I’m not satisfied where we are at financially right now, but I am pleasantly surprised. Our approach has got to be we continue to comply and do the best we can with the guidelines and hope for change,” he told school board members.

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