This article has been updated with information from the district that competitive food sales are in effect to ensure federally funded meal programs remain viable. Schools risk losing eligibility for providing students free or reduced meals.
By Bryan Boggiano
A battle of two kitchens is cooking at J.P. Taravella High School.
One parent alleges the cafeteria manager limits J.P. Taravella’s ProStart program from selling food during lunch.
He accused her of urging school officials to stop allowing ProStart to sell food during lunch, saying they compete with the cafeteria’s sales.
In response, the parent alleges that an unnamed teacher posted signs in the school directing people upset about ProStart’s limited sales to contact her.
But, when it comes to competitive sales, the school district says that there is a time and a place for everything.
They reiterated that state and federal mandates do not outright prohibit training programs like Prostart. These mandates do not prohibit programs from selling food to teachers during the school day or to students after hours, 30 minutes after dismissal. Culinary programs may, however, consider selling food after school and at sports events.
Still, the parent, who wishes to remain anonymous, has an upperclassman at the school and stated that ProStart sells quality food, and students interested in the culinary arts program are given room to explore their passion.
His child enjoys the food that ProStart prepares because of the quality, low price, and more significant portions than cafeteria food. If his child decides to buy school lunch, they need two meals because of the smaller portion sizes. The cafeteria lunches are typically thrown out due to the quality, he said.
ProStart also provides an opportunity for career readiness, he added. The program gives students hands-on training and lets them explore all facets of foodservice. Without that experience, students miss out and learn less, including his child’s friends.
“They’re not going to get proper training or experience in what they love,” he said. “They’re just going to be getting very minimal experience.”
Scott Goodman, ProStart advisor, said Principal Mary DeArmas supports the curriculum and wants the program to continue. He said that competitive sales are the main issue. However, district policy binds DeArmas.
According to Broward County Public Schools, all food served in competition with the high school cafeteria can only be available an hour following the end of the last lunch period. High schools are allowed 15 days of fundraiser exceptions per year.
The school district’s office of communication said in an email that because they participate in programs such as the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program, there are certain rules they have to follow. Rules regarding competitive food sales are in effect to make sure that federally funded meal programs remain viable.
This is why, they contend, that those upset with the rules should not single out individual staff members.
Schools that do not follow these rules risk losing eligibility for providing students free or reduced meals. The school district reports that at Taravella, this would be significant since 62 percent of students are eligible for the program.
The district also reports that Taravella is not the only school with this issue. They said that Food and Nutritional Services has dealt with the issue since adopting current competitive sales regulations in 2014.
Most of these issues deal with culinary programs and a school’s interpretation of the law. At Taravella, FNS had discussions with Assistant Principal Anita Natale to provide guidance and compliance with the law.
To address nutritional needs and combat childhood obesity, there are also requirements about the total fat, sodium, and sugar in meals and snacks at schools.
The district reports not discussing nutritional value with Taravella since they cannot sell entrée-type foods competitively.
“The federal [and] state mandates do not prohibit students from appropriately being trained in culinary [arts],” the district said.
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