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Community Builder: New food service in NY Mills School

Sam Benshoof/FOCUS When the New York Mills School Cafeteria is filled with students next month, they'll find that they have many new healthy food options available to them through Chartwells Dining Service.

Students in New York Mills might notice that something's different about their school this year: the district recently opted to contract dining services through Chartwells Food Service.

The school district decided on the change, said Superintendent Todd Cameron, in an effort to meet the new upgrades to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrition standards for school meals. The changes were announced in January of this year.

The new changes add more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat milk to school meals.

Chartwells, Cameron said, will provide new menu options that help bring the school closer to being in compliance with the new standards.

Meeting the standards just with school staff alone would have been difficult, Cameron said, because of the high cost of food. Chartwells, which is one of the largest buyers of food in the country, will help the school district save money.

"Chartwells estimated that our food savings would be nearly $30,000," Cameron said. "That's a significant food cost reduction."

According to the company's website, Chartwells provides dining services for more than 550 public school districts and private schools, made up of more than 5,000 separate elementary, middle and high schools nationwide.

Cameron also said that there have been discussions about Chartwells forming a nutrition/menu planning committee after the start of the school year. The committee would then report back to the school board on a monthly basis.

Additionally, Chartwells will also help with fundraising or catering events that take place at the school throughout the year, just as the NY Mills Dining Service has done in the past.

"Chartwells will continue to provide that services that the community expects," Cameron said.

The cost of meals in NY Mills will stay about the same. Breakfast remains free for preschool students through sixth grade, and lunch increases by 5 cents.

For families that need to apply for free/reduced lunches, an application will be included with the school calendar that will be released in the next few weeks.

Like other new changes in NY Mills, Cameron said that he's excited about the new set up.

"We're looking forward to providing good quality, nutritious meals," he said.