TOPEKA (KSNT) – The new school year means students will be spending a third of their day under the watchful eye of teachers and administrators.
But the care in the classroom extends into the lunchroom as school strive to provide healthy, filling meals to students.
And one district said they couldn’t provide the type of meals they do without funds from the federally supported Free or Reduced Lunch program.
“You know if we didn’t have that money, we wouldn’t be running the same program at all,” Katie Petesch, the lunch coordinator at Royal Valley School District said Tuesday.
According to Petesch, 40 percent of the students in her district use the federal program – which gives assistance to students who may not be able to afford lunch.
“We do a six week rotation with our menus and all of them have to make sure they meet the guidelines – within the state and federal guidelines,” she said.
The lunches at Royal Valley, Topeka Public Schools and others across the state are regulated by the Kansas Board of Education as well as the United States Department of Agriculture.
Petesch said those guidelines force schools to keep tabs on the amount of sodium in meals, the total caloric value, how many vegetables are on the trays for each meal and what kind of bread can be used for sandwiches.
And this year, Petesch said the school district had to raise meal prices by 10 cents.
Which can be a strain on some of the families in the district. Another reason why Petesch said the meal program is important.
Administrators from USD 501 in Topeka agree with Petesch.
“If a kid comes to school hungry, they won’t learn as well, they won’t behave as well…” Ron Harbaugh, the communications director for the district said. “If a student’s stomach is not full it’s very difficult for them to concentrate on their studies.”
He said almost 75 percent of students enrolled in the district are on the free or reduced lunch program.
Both districts said they serve breakfast for students on the program and those meals are also subject to state and federal guidelines.
For parents who want to see what meals the schools are providing, Petesch said most districts have menus already online for the upcoming year.