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Laguna’s School Lunches Cater to New Food Rules

High school students miffed about not being able to order customized Subway sandwiches for delivery have taken their complaints online even as the school board learned Tuesday about an upgraded lunch menu with fresh ingredients and vegan offerings available when school reopens next week.

The district nixed daily deliveries of Subway sandwiches that occurred at all four schools last year, Dean West, assistant superintendent of business services, said at the meeting.  Safety concerns and staff time sorting deliveries became an issue, said Shannon Soto, the district’s director of fiscal services and supervisor of a new nutrition team.

When high school students return to campus next week, they will be able to buy two types of premade district-approved Subway sandwiches available at the cafeteria on Mondays only, she said.

Daniel Riscalla, owner of the local Subway franchise, says delivery service will continue to high school students who order sandwiches online. A Subway car will deliver the order outside the high school’s Artists’ Theater, he said, as was done last year.

“Whenever we talked about this at the district, I always said we would continue delivering outside the high school and they agreed that this is within my rights,” said Riscalla.

Subway delivered lunch to underclassmen at the high school who lack the off-campus lunch privileges of juniors and seniors. But some students expressed annoyance on a Facebook page with the district’s plan to restrict access to Subway’s made-to-order menu and questioned if the motive was to remove a competitor for school-lunch sales.

By one measure at least, Soto agreed with the students’ critique. She said losing school lunch money to Subway was an “indirect result” of curtailing on-campus deliveries.  She also said the district can’t control whether customized sandwiches meet federal lunch standards, which qualify for government reimbursement. “It’s a federal nutrition compliance issue,” she added.  “When students custom-order their sandwiches, we can’t assume, we cannot assure that they’re following the guidelines of the children’s nutrition program.”

Parents, of course, can bring Subway or any other lunch to their children at any of the district’s schools, said Soto, but middle and elementary school students won’t be able to order online.

The Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act was championed in 2010 by First Lady Michelle Obama to address childhood obesity and other health problems that result from poor-quality food choices.  The law resulted in changes to improve school food programs last year that replaced the USDA’s food pyramid with its My Plate meal standards.

Lunch deliveries were discussed at the meeting when the new team of nutritionists outlined school nutrition goals. Debra Appel, who has been with the district since 1992, will supervise food service duties, working with registered dieticians Megan Hartshorne and Melissa Manning, as well as Soto.

The team’s message was that district-made school lunches will be healthier and more appealing. Federal authorities have already adjusted portion guidelines considered too small for older students, said Hartshorne. She said there’s more flexibility in meal planning for schools now.

The team said the district will surpass federal requirements, which include more whole grains to replace bleached and processed white flour, less processed salt and sugar as well as low-fat dairy and leaner meat.  Half of the district’s lunch fare will offer vegetarian and vegan choices with dairy-free products, plant-based protein choices such as beans, healthy juices and more organic, locally grown fruits and vegetables, said Hartshorne.  Offering more home-style meals cooked in the high school’s kitchen is also on the menu along with monthly student taste-tests to monitor preferences.

Students who buy lunch must select three items from among protein, grains, dairy, fruit and vegetables, Hartshorne said.  “One of the three must be at least a half a cup of fruits or vegetables.  That is the biggest change.” A meal with half a cup of fruit or vegetables qualifies as a reimbursable complete meal, she said.

District food vendors will include Subway, Mandarin King, Pick-Up Stix, Juice It Up and Sunrise Produce for organic as well as conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.

There will be no pizza on the menu, an all-time favorite, in September because the district’s nutrition team hasn’t found a healthy one in town that also delivers.

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Comments (21)

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  1. M.D. Moore says:

    Just read a story similar to this. The schools adapted their lunch policy to force students to eat from the cafeteria because they want the income. Don’t have any idea if that’s what drove this decision, but it is a coincidence.

  2. The other side of the coin says:

    Respectfully, I’m confused by your comment M.D. Moore. Where is the hyperlink to the similar story? I’m interested in reading it. What is the relation of that story/article to this article? Hopefully it’s not all the

    To me, it sounds like the department is adapting to meet Mrs. Obama’s new regulations that changed. In listening to the podcast of the school board meeting, I only heard about them attempting to raise their quality standard. I also heard them say they are reducing the number of options to encourage students to make the healthy selection. I would think chips and sugar drinks would be the money makers so again, profit doesn’t seem to be the target here.

    Regarding the Subway thing, yes I suppose it makes them money by protecting from competition but didn’t Ms. Soto also lay out that it appears to be illegal? (not to mention a bit creepy that a guy in a truck hands out 100’s of sandwiches to elementary kids). Since when are government-run schools required or expected to welcome competition either in the cafeteria (or in the classroom for that matter…vouchers for private school, anyone?)? As long as the general public thinks it is a good idea to require school districts to feed low-income families a well-balanced meal twice a day (sounds like a reasonable ideal, albeit difficult to accomplish), why wouldn’t they attempt to make some or all of that money back by trying to run a profitable for-sale business with the cash-paying customers? Last I checked, the school districts don’t have money flowing out of their ears (even with the wonderful benefit of an organization like School Power in LB).

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