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NY Mills School lunches in line with federal regulations

The New York Mills School cafeteria is a little ahead of the game when it comes to federal regulations, food services supervisor Anj Wiire told the school board at a meeting last week.

Schools across the country are gearing up for new school lunch requirements that promote healthier eating. The new rules become mandatory in 2014.

Wiire said NY Mills is following all guidelines for keeping meals within a certain calorie count, offering an array of fruits and vegetables and limiting fat content.

The school also recently certified a five-week menu plan, which will increase each meal's federal reimbursement by 6 cents.

And though it's not required until 2013-2014, NY Mills offers only fat-free versions of chocolate and white milk.

Wiire said the cafeteria is trying to get ahead of upcoming sodium regulations, too.

"I do think we are doing a very good job on flavoring what we can flavor with low sodium soup bases and other spices," Wiire said.

Some of the regulations are not very popular with students. For example, cooks will send students back through the line if they don't take their required fruit or vegetable servings (a half cup for younger kids, a whole cup for older).

Wiire said the elementary kids are less likely to fuss over this rule, whereas many of the high school kids need frequent reminders. If a plate goes through without the required fruit and vegetables on it, the school does not receive reimbursement for that meal.

Wiire said they are working on trying to satisfy students' food needs while still remaining within federal guidelines.

Some students feel the school lunches aren't big enough, but federal regulations don't allow schools to increase portion sizes. However, schools do have options for those who need more food. Extra fruits and vegetables are offered free, and students can purchase a second entrée, or the daily selection off the ala cart menu.

Too little food isn't always the problem, Wiire said. Kindergarteners, for example, often don't eat all the food on their trays, and the extra ends up in the trash.

In other news at the school board meeting:

-A tentative timeline was set for the district's search for a new superintendent. Applications will be accepted until Feb. 4 and interviews will be conducted Feb. 22. The new superintendent will start July 1.

-The board approved the final school levy with a decrease of 1.1 percent. The full amount certified was $992,818, which was the same as the preliminary amount approved in September.

-The December board meeting marked the end of the terms for John Peeters (12 years), Dan Welter (16 years), Tim Kupfer (16 years) and Josie Hendrickx (8 years).

Amy Wallgren, Kristina Ehnert, Julie Adams, and Wendy Hetland will begin their first terms on Jan. 1.

-The board granted the administration's request for more teacher workdays in January for teachers to continue the curriculum alignment project.

-The school is considering having an early childhood screening night in the spring to help school-age children receive state-required screenings. Currently, parents must make individual appointments with the public health office.