After the April school vacation, the kitchen area of the Rochester Memorial School cafeteria will go peanut-free. Director of Food Services Caitlin Meagher said the peanut butter sandwiches provided to students through the school lunch program will change to WOWBUTTER® sandwiches, a substitute peanut butter made from non-GMO soy.
“I could not tell the difference,” said Principal Derek Medeiros.
Meagher said the soy butter costs a bit more than regular peanut butter, but since the cafeteria sells on average only about two peanut butter sandwiches a day, the increase would not be significant.
“We’re not saying that students can’t bring peanut butter from home,” stated Meagher. “We just won’t be using it in the kitchen.”
Meagher said keeping peanuts out of the kitchen area would eliminate the threat of cross contamination, a concern for some of the parents of children at Rochester Memorial who have severe peanut allergies.
“I think it sounds like a great idea,” Chairperson Michelle Cusolito told Meagher. “Thank you for being so responsive to the families’ requests.”
The cafeteria already has designated “peanut-free” tables for students allergic to peanuts.
Meagher also updated committee members on the status of delinquent lunch accounts and brought to the committee’s attention that a formal policy for dealing with overdue balances was never officially adopted.
“Oh,” said Cusolito, surprised. “I thought we actually approved that decision.”
Superintendent Doug White confirmed that, although there had been discussion over providing a substitute lunch to students with overdue accounts and a policy was drafted in the past, the process was stalled at one point and then never followed through.
The committee agreed to put the matter on next month’s agenda, and Meagher said she still has a copy of the draft that she would forward to committee members in the meantime.
The lunch staff at Rochester Memorial has been preparing new menu item ideas and providing samples to the students in an attempt to make the lunch program more appealing to the kids and, according to Meagher, with some success so far.
The lunch staff has started preparing their own pickles and making more foods and soups from scratch. Recently, some students were given samples of a pulled pork recipe, which Meagher said was a hit.
“My son is a big fan of the pulled pork sandwich,” said one parent in attendance. “He even asked me, ‘Mom, can you make this?’”
School lunch participation has been trending upward over the past few months, up to 41% in January 2014.
Fiscal year 2015 budget discussion was put on hold for now to allow School Budget Subcommittee members to meet with the faculty and staff at Rochester Memorial School for their feedback on the latest draft budget.
The next Rochester School Committee meeting is scheduled for April 3 at 6:30 pm at Rochester Town Hall. The public hearing for the FY15 budget will also take place on April 3. The public is welcome to attend and participate in budget discussions.
Nutritional information on WOWBUTTER® is available at http://www.soybutter.com/nutrition-facts-soybutter.html.
By Jean Perry