Tyrone School District cafeteria concerns addressed by district

Students in the Tyrone Area School District voiced concerns over school lunches with more than 200 declining lunch at one point in January.
Tyrone Area School Superintendent Dr. William N. Miller said the number of middle/high school students declining a school lunch had dropped to about 50 students by the beginning of this week.
The district released information showing the current numbers are actually higher than they were this time one year ago.
The Nutrition Group provides school lunches in the district. The firm’s regional manager Tom Yocke addressed student’s concerns that were presented to him by the district in a memo he addressed to Dr. Miller on Feb.1. The concerns ranged from variety of items offered, taste, portion size, food quality, costs and other issues.
The district said one of the biggest issues involved the serving of tator tots in place of shoestring French fries. The students felt the tator tots were not an acceptable substitute for French fries. The students contended that seven tots, individually counted and squeezed, were not an adequate portion.
Yocke told the district that tator tots would no longer be substituted for fries. The previous production of French fries has been reestablished with baked fries offered on Monday and Wednesday and deep fries on Tuesday and Thursday. Fridays are “fry less Fridays” when the district serves mashed potatoes and gravy.
“They (the students) really appreciated having an item like the shoestring French fries and they just didn’t care for the substitution,” said Yocke. “In response to the wellness committee here in the district, we do a bake able fry on Monday and Wednesday. Two years ago we started the “fry less Fridays.”
He said this was done in a gradual way so that students would not be served deep-fried potatoes everyday.
“It’s been a gradual change in the meal pattern to meet the expectation of the state’s reauthorization act,” said Yocke.
Miller said, “The big item was the tator tots.”
Informal discussions were initially held with students from the 11th or 12th grade according to Miller. He said students in other grades confirmed the concerns.
“It was a spontaneous gathering of students who just felt that the tator tots were an issue,” said Dr. Miller. “Once that was (discussed) then some other issues came out. I think it gave us a chance to get some feedback from a lot of other students and their concerns.”
The administration and The Nutrition Group discussed the concerns and the firm formulated the responses.
Miller said, “I think nutrition has responded pretty well and is still keeping in line with the national school lunch program guidelines. We are trying to get away from unhealthy, greasy foods across the board.
“Nutrition has to deal with a lot of federal commodities that are given to them and our part of our program and there are some of them that perhaps are not that tasteful. Overall, I think they offer a balanced diet of good food.
“All I think we are doing is sharpening up our approach to this and see where we can legitimately accommodate the students,” Miller added. “I think we are going ahead and accommodating even though there is only a small number that are probably rejecting the offer at this point in time.”
Miller said the nutrition firm’s responses would be made available to students including the posting of the information on the district’s web site.