School lunch tastes great, but portions are limited

Posted October 10, 2012 at 5:57 pm

School lunch.jpg

After more than a month of school days, and school lunches served for the 2012-2013 year, Superintendent Mike Ruth says the new contracted school lunch program seems to be receiving pretty good reviews.

The Miller School District’s Board of Education decided to contract with CBM Managed Services, Sioux Falls, to oversee all aspects of the food service and management. CBM develops the menu and recipes, hires personnel, sets prices, and makes sure the menus follow federal regulations.

A district must be in compliance with regulations or risk losing reimbursement for eligible lunches served.

District superintendent Mike Ruth commented, “I don’t believe we’ve come across any more issues than other schools in the state or nation. Everyone has to adhere to federal regulations regarding nutrition and portion sizes. Districts that aren’t using a contracted service still have to conform to the regulations.”

Federal regulations are mandated through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service, and state guidelines are set forth in the Child and Adult Nutrition Program.

Ruth said the big issue is portion sizes. “Limiting the portion size of entrees is in response to the rise in childhood obesity. The idea is to promote eating more fruits and vegetables.”

There are always five or six choices of fruits and vegetables available, Ruth said, and kids can eat all they want. “The negatives are the size of entrée portions, and the fact that if they want more than one portion, they have to pay for it. It’s been pointed out that students have a long day, often have activities after school, and it’s a long time between meals.

“On the plus side, the flavor of the food is excellent. I haven’t heard any complaint about the taste, and the variety of the entrees is great. The portion size is the big adjustment.”

For instance, a recent entrée choice was either a beef and cheese whole-grain burrito or whole-grain pepperoni pizza. Both entrees were popular and tasty; however, many of the students would have appreciated a second burrito or another slice of pizza.

“I think it will take a little getting used to, it’s hard to make a change overnight,” Ruth said, “but the meals and portion sizes are meeting the nutrition guidelines.”

In addition to the noon meal, hot breakfast is available for students in grades 7-12, and a cold “grab ‘n go” breakfast is available for K-6 students. Elementary students also have a fruit/vegetable snack break in the afternoon.

Cindy Arland is in charge of the meal preparation, and CBM wants a total of four employees. A director from CBM is also often on site. Ruth said a great amount of paperwork is involved, required by regulation.

“Any adult—parent, grandparent, friend—is welcome to come by any day for a meal,” Ruth said. The menus are posted weekly in The Miller Press and are also on the school’s website (, under “calendars.”

Final Rule Nutrition Standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs can be found on the USDA website under standards.htm.

Ruth A. Moller | The Miller Press

First graders Lilyann Ward, Logan Peterson, Braeden Siedell, and Ian Speck enjoy their lunch in the Miller Commons last Thursday.