Lunches will look a little different at Orchard Park Central schools in September.
Little Debbie brand Cosmic Brownies and Zebra Cakes, snacks that have been available for purchase a la carte, will be missing.
The School Board voted, 5-2, Tuesday night to remove the confections from the menu. The district’s Nutrition Advisory Committee, made up of parents, students and staff, had recommended eliminating the Little Debbie snacks from lunches in kindergarten through eighth grade because they do not measure up to federal standards expected to be implemented in the 2014-15 school year. Board members went a step further, and added the high school.
“Sometimes what is costing less isn’t the best,” Board Member Donna M. Omar said.
In anticipation of the new snack guidelines going into effect, the Nutrition Committee met over the past year to discuss the snacks offered in school cafeterias. All 11 members felt the snacks should be removed from elementary schools, and six thought they should be out of the middle school lunches as well, said Jeffrey Petrus, assistant superintendent for business.
“The majority still felt we should offer them at the high school, with the idea that the kids are old enough to make an educated decision on what they purchase,” Petrus said.
He said last year an average of 550 of the snacks were purchased each week in the middle school, and 450 were bought by high schoolers. The total for all four elementary schools combined was 90 a week, he said.
Board Member Elizabeth Quinlan, who was the board’s representative on the committee, said according to the district’s comprehensive educational plan, the district has a responsibility to offer healthy eating choices to children.
The upcoming guidelines on snacks would limit sodium and sugar, and require them to be 200 calories or less, with no more than 35 percent of total calories coming from fat, Quinlan said.
“I don’t believe in demonizing Little Debbie snack cakes,” she said, “but they simply do not meet the requirements of the proposed USDA guidelines.”
She said parents trust the school district to provide healthy foods.
Board President Natalie A. Schaffer said she sends her children to school with money for snacks, and she knows they do not buy healthy ones.
“I know they’re buying junk, I know they’re not buying yogurt. I’m OK with that. As a parent, that’s my decision,” she said. “I don’t think the school district, or the state or anyone else should interfere with my decision of what my kids can occasionally eat.”
Schaffer and Vice President David Nielsen voted against the ban. Nielsen suggested eliminating all snacks that are not in line with the proposed standards, but Petrus and others said they don’t know if or how many other foods might be in that category.
Omar, a fitness and nutrition expert, fully supported the ban, and suggested extending it to the high school.
Petrus also said Tuesday night that the cost of school lunches will not go up in the fall.