Beginning next month, the afternoon bell will mean suppertime at the Haines School.
The Haines Borough school board voted last week to approve a fourth meal for students, a “sack supper” that would be made available daily at 3:15 p.m. The program’s $60,000 price tag will be covered entirely by the federal government.
All students would be eligible to receive the free meal, which is partly aimed at addressing complaints about portions following the establishment of new calorie guidelines this year.
For the first time, lunch at the high school may not exceed 850 calories, but that’s leaving some students hungry, board members said at their Oct. 2 meeting. “The portions are so small our high school boys are starving,” said Sarah Swinton.
Assistant principal Michelle Byer told the board the federal standards are intended to eliminate “tons of sugar and tons of salt” but aren’t sensitive to variation among student appetites.
“We’re not cookie-cutter people. We all need different amounts of food. But that’s what you get,” Byer said. “You only get two ounces of protein per meal and some of our students seem to need more than that.”
Haines School food coordinator Gen Armstrong, a registered dietician, said the sack supper would include two ounces each of grains and meats, up to a cup of vegetables and as much fruit, plus milk.
“We’re at the upper end of portions and calories. This is the last thing I can do to increase the amount of food coming from the school to the kids,” Armstrong said.
When surveyed, 109 students of about 280 students in the school said they’d eat the sack supper. The program could accommodate additional students, Armstrong said.
The school qualifies for full reimbursement because it offers after-school sports and activities to all students, and because such a high percentage of students qualify for subsidized meals, school officials said this week
Michelle Byer told the board 85 percent of students in the school participate in after-school programs.
Armstrong told the school board last week that a late afternoon meal makes sense. “Every kid, every adult for that matter, our metabolisms work like a wave. Every three to six hours, depending on our age and activity level and other factors, we’re in a lull and are ready to eat again. We’re feeding the kids lunch between 11 and 12, so again in three hours, as growing kids, they’re probably ready for another meal.”
As some students are just getting ready to go home at 7 p.m., the program is an “awesome opportunity” that will provide another balanced meal and also help teach portion control, she said.
Royal Henderson, a Haines High School senior recently elected to the school board, predicted students would take advantage of the program. “High school boys will rarely turn down the opportunity for more food. I think there’s a demand for this.”
Superintendent Michael Byer said, “This is something we should try this year and see how it goes. It looks very promising.”
Besides lunch, the school also offers breakfast and a mid-morning snack. Not including the sack supper, the district has budgeted $227,000 for the school meal program for the current year. Funding sources include almost $100,000 from the federal government, $60,000 from the Haines Borough, $48,000 in receipts and $15,000 from the program’s fund balance.