By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Northborough – School lunches used to be a simple thing. Some students bought the lunch that the school cafeteria offered while others brought their own in from home. But with the advent of so many children developing allergies, which in some cases are actually life threatening, and others suffering from serious ailments such as celiac disease, school lunches have taken on a whole new dimension for school administrators.
At the last Northborough Southborough Parents Advisory Council (NSPAC) meeting Christine Johnson, the superintendent of schools for the two towns, discussed with a small group of parents how the district is attempting to keep kids well fed but still safe.
That was not always easy, Johnson admitted, but was a mission that the administration was committed to doing.
Currently the district is searching for a food service director to replace the previous director who resigned last October. While that search is in process, Terry Locke, a retired food service director, is filling in on an interim basis.
The district is also looking into a web-based program where lunches can be posted for parents to check ingredient lists, she added.
“In today’s environment, wellness and food services are one and the same,” she said. “We try to keep pace as quickly as we can. We have a lot of double checks in place to review ingredients in items. ”
The district also recently held a professional development day, she noted, for the nursing and food services personnel to share information. More of those sessions are planned, she said.
Although the district does try to create different menu options, there are “so many variables” when it comes to dietary needs, Johnson said. Complicating the process were the myriad state and federal mandates as well as budget constraints.
“We try to do as much as we can within the frameworks,” she said. “But it’s going to be difficult to provide every option for every child’s needs.”
The most critical component to keeping kids safe, she stressed, was “constant communication” between families and school administrators. She urged parents to update their child’s principal and school nurse with any health changes and concerns.
NSPAC is a volunteer organization that serves as a resource for parents and guardians of children in the Northborough/Southborough district with special needs and learning differences.
The group holds a monthly meeting on the first Wednesday of the each month as a way for members to connect with others in the special education community. A specific topic of discussion is chosen by the participants of that session. Time is also allocated so that members may share and brainstorm on challenges and unmet needs. For more information visit www.nspac.org.