A group of parents successfully pleaded with Lewiston-Porter school administrators Tuesday to look at introducing a wellness policy that would limit high-fat and fried foods in cafeterias.
"I sampled our lunch calendar and 45 percent of the entrees offered are hot dogs, pizza and hamburgers," said elementary PTA President Betty VanDenBosch. "That's carnival food. We can do better."
The four parents, who are PTA members, said the district's current lunch offerings aren't in line with nearby school districts that have eliminated fattening lunch items, like whole milk and potato chips. VanDenBosch said she looked at as many as 50 districts and none offered whole milk.
Lewiston-Porter does comply with state mandates that limit nutritional values, such as fat and sugar content, said Assistant Superintendent Donald Rappold.
Lewiston-Porter food service is contracted out to international food giant Sodexho Inc. and Superintendent R. Christopher Roser said, after hearing parent concerns, the district will make any changes it can.
"Cost and taste are the hurdles," Roser said. "Healthier options can cost more and if you put sugar and salt in something, kids approve of it more. It will be a balance, but how you present healthy food can make a difference, too."
Board President Keith Fox called for parents to meet with the district's head food service manager and give regular updates to the board. Board member April Fideli will head a new committee, she said Tuesday, to push for immediate changes.
"I understand there has been an effort, but it's not enough," Fideli said. "My kids bring their lunches to school and they won't be buying lunch until things change."
Roser said although the PTA's complaints focused on prekindergarten through fifth grade, the district will look at making changes at all grade levels. The state Education Department will audit the district's food service program this year, creating an opportunity to make changes based on feedback.
The number of Lewiston-Porter students who buy lunch was not immediately available Tuesday night, but Rappold said between 13 and 16 percent buy through the state's free and reduced lunch program.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year estimated nearly a third of children in the United States are obese. By contrast, only about 5 percent of children were obese in the 1960s and 1970s. The CDC has reported that childhood obesity may have finally reached its peak, with experts pointing to schools pushing for better health policies as a possible cause.