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Schools lose money on ‘smart snacks’

By Kimberly Jordan kjordan@lebanondemocrat.com • Dec 15, 2015 at 2:58 PM

At its meeting Friday, the Board of Education approved several items. One of those, relating to food service documents, produced a lively discussion.

“I know we’ve talked about the vending machines and the amount of money that schools have been able to take from those vending machines over the years,” said Board Chair Don Weathers. “The change in the smart snack rule has really impacted the revenue that those machines generate for our schools.”

The USDA Smart Snacks in School program guidelines include any foods sold in schools must “be a whole-grain-rich grain product, or have the first ingredient a fruit, a vegetable or a protein food” for example, according to the USDA website.

Board member Ron Britt added “I don’t see how a vendor can even survive with where we’re at at this time.”

Director of Schools Donna Wright told the board that “this is not something that’s new to public school systems. About a decade ago the first challenge came as far as not only monitoring, but also auditing federal food programs and particularly ones taking federal dollars. There was scrutiny as far as what was being offered in those machines.”

Board members Bill Robinson and Larry Tomlinson also expressed concerns for the loss of revenue that the system has seen since the smart snack rule was put into effect.

“This is serious folks; we’re talking big dollars that we have all the sudden [lost],” Robinson said.

Tomlinson added that he believed what the smart snack program did was well-intentioned, to keep children healthier, but said “we only have them for eight hours a day,” and noted that students had the option of going to a store before school to get their preferred food.

“Basically what they have done to us, they’ve put more money into the quick stop markets. They’ll stop on the way to school in the morning and get whatever they want to bring to school to eat,” said Tomlinson.

In the end, the board voted unanimously to accept the food service documents as presented.

The board voted to defer several budget items on the agenda in order to schedule a work session for discussion. It’s next regular meeting will be Aug. 4 at 6 p.m.

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