GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Healthy food is not always cheap, as the Greenburgh schools are finding out now that new federal school meal requirements are in effect.
Greenburgh Central 7 District Schools collaborates with Aramark, a wellness and education program, to develop the schools' menus. The district notified parents and students in August that the menu would be updated to accommodate the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program's guidelines, and so far, it's taken some getting used to, Esther Cao, Greenburgh's assistant food service director, said in a statement.
"While we have always set high nutrition standards for school meals, we support the USDA's updated meal requirements," Cao wrote in the statement. "Students have not yet fully adjusted to the new menus, but like any other change, it will take a little time."
Some of the changes include requiring half of the grain items to be whole grain, and for students to take at least half a cup of fruits or vegetables every day. These are the choices that raise cost concerns for Robert Campisi, Greenburgh's food service director.
"If you get a loaf of white bread at the supermarket, it might cost only $1. But a loaf of wheat bread might be $1.15. It's usually 10 or 15 percent more for wheat grain products," Campisi said.
In addition, the USDA requires fruit and vegetable servings to "be fresh whenever possible," according to the requirements. Fresh food goes to waste more quickly, meaning schools may have to buy it more frequently. Campisi said that it's too soon to tell what the full cost impact of the new program might be.
Edgemont School District operates through a type-3 contract, which does not take part in the national school lunch program because it has a la carte options for lunch, said District Assistant Superintendent Sue Sherkin.
"The rules are different when you don't offer free lunch," Sherkin said, referring to the federal reimbursement lunch program. "Here, the kids get more choices, which I say is fortunate. We have the nutrients, we have everything there and it follows regulations."
While Edgemont's a la carte menu offers a variety of healthy options, it comes at a price.
Freshman student Isaiah Ngowi said it's hard to choose healthy without spending extra money. He said hot lunches, which include pizza, burgers, nuggets and cheesesteaks, are only about $3. If he wants to get a wrap or a fruit salad from the a la carte choices, it's about $5 or $6, he said.
"There's always fruits and vegetables available," Ngowi said. "You just have to pay extra for it."