Board discusses feeding students

October 6, 2009 9:18:00 AM



Oktibbeha County School District board of trustees discussed two issues related to food for students in their meeting Monday night. 


The board addressed portion sizes being served to students and money earned in fundraisers being spent to feed the football team. 


The board began the discussion with James Brown, treasurer of the West Oktibbeha County High School Parent-Teacher Association. Superintendent James Covington asked him to come to the board and discuss his organization''s financial status. The high school does not have athletic boosters, so the PTA runs the concession stands and fills in some of the duties typically performed by athletic boosters. 


"Last Friday, we made $256 in concessions. We spent $100 on food and $101 on feeding the team," Brown said. "That left us $55. We''re not making any money." 


Brown also said that he and some of the coaches buy meals for some of the athletes after an away game when they are traveling home and the student doesn''t have money for a meal. 


Two members of the board and Covington picked up on that thought. Yvette Rice may have been the most vocal. 


"My concern is that the parents have agreed for their children to play a sport," Rice said. "They need to take responsibility for feeding their own child." 


Covington echoed this sentiment and asked board member and former basketball coach Herman Bush for his opinion on the subject. Bush said some students when he coached had more available cash than he did, but there were always a few who didn''t have money when the bus stopped for a meal. He would buy food for these students from his own pocket. 


The board did agree that they are responsible for all money taken in on the school premises, so they asked for a treasurer''s report from the group at the next meeting. 


They discussed setting policies and establishing practices to clarify who is responsible for feeding athletes, and encouraged Brown to try to organize an athletic booster organization on the high school campus to carry some of the work and expense his small group is carrying alone. 


The board then turned their attention to the issue of portion sizes. They were addressing a concern a parent raised to Darnell Boyd, director of child nutrition for the school district, about too-small portions being served to students at one of the high schools. 


Boyd said state law sets portion size for kindergarten through seventh grade as 2 ounces of meat, a pint of milk and three-eighths cup of fruit and vegetables at lunch. For high school, portion sizes mandated by law go up to 3 ounces of meat and 1 cup of fruit and vegetables. 


"School lunch is designed to provide one-third of a child''s daily nutritional needs," Boyd said. 


Boyd said the district is audited periodically, and one of the things checked is serving size. School district''s that do not serve the state-required minimum amounts are penalized. That has not happened to the Oktibbeha County School District, she said. 


"When we were audited in 2007, we had some problems, but it wasn''t for portion sizes," Boyd said. 


She said students can pay for extra portions if they want, but these are not included in the regular meal. Rising food costs and tight budgets do not allow the cafeterias to serve as much food as every student might want, but she said all serve at least what the state requires. 


Board President Curtis Snell asked if the complaint involved discrepancies over paid, free or reduced lunch sizes. Boyd said this was not the case, and school districts have taken steps to make sure student lunches are prepared the same way, whether it is a free, reduced cost or fully paid meal. 


Board member Cynthia Ward brought up the issue of athletes needing to eat more, but Boyd said the stomach empties in five hours. Anyone who eats lunch at 11 a.m., even a large meal, will be hungry again around 4 p.m., she said. 


Rice said parents of athletes should make arrangements for their kids'' nutritional needs, packing a snack if necessary before practice or after a game. 


"If I said you can play the sport, I believe I can handle" meals so the child is not hungry, Rice said. 


The board took no action on either of these matters.