Parents and a handful of students streamed into the St. James Episcopal Church on Friday morning for an audience with Mayor Eddie A. Perez to complain about the healthfulness of school lunches.
Specifically, the group asked for food with fewer carbohydrates, less fat and fewer fried options.
Before the meeting, Parents for the Improvement of School Food secured some promises from school officials: Onion rings will be removed from menus because they are high in fat; mayonnaise in tuna salad and cream cheese on bagels will be low fat; and menus will feature more high-fiber bean dishes.
But parents wanted more. Some asked for potatoes to be removed from menus because they are high in carbohydrates, and others wanted fast food such as hot dogs, chicken nuggets, pizza and Jamaican patties banned.
Perez, who is also chairman of the school board, said that school menus conform to federal regulations for limitations on fat. But students helped choose some of the food on the menu, he said, and their focus is mainly on taste.
"We can't invite students to help select food and then not offer the items they choose. If they choose hot dogs, we'll get the healthiest hot dogs we can," he said.
Some parents complained that portions for older kids are too small. Lonnie Burt, the school district's food service director, said that portions for protein, vegetables and other items conform to federal standards but that students often don't choose vegetables. "If you take three of five food items, you don't get enough calories. Many students won't take a fruit or vegetable."
Some parents and students also had gripes about sanitation.
Whitney Vitale, a sophomore at Bulkeley High School, complained that last year her milk was sour and her friend's mayonnaise was green.
Burt said milk is delivered every other day and that strangely colored or odd-tasting food should be returned to the cafeteria managers.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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