Editor’s Note: I cannot resist sharing that the person posting this story on 1812Blockhouse greatly dislikes both sweet potatoes and, unfortunately, watermelon.

For some fourth-graders at Malabar Intermediate School, the final days of the school year included a hands-on exercise in citizen action, triggered by dislike for sweet potato fries on the cafeteria menu.

Teacher Lisa Koplan explained. “My two classes have been learning about government and how to make peaceful changes in your community,” she said.

“Several of my students started a petition about offering something other than the sweet potato fries that are served at lunch. Many students don’t like them. They took this on themselves and are very excited about it.”

Eighty-nine students – and some teachers – signed a handwritten petition drafted by student Karissa Byrd to Lauren Ellsworth, district food service manager.

“Dear Lauren Ellsworth,

Thank you for picking out our meals. I really appreciate it but I notice that not that many people eat sweet potato fries. They get thrown away a lot. I was hoping you can change the sweet potatoes to tater tots.

Love, Karissa”

The anti-sweet potato petition triggered a second one whose author wasn’t noted:

“Dear Lauren Ellsworth,

Thank you for picking our lunch but we think we should change pears into watermelon.”

At Koplan’s invitation Ellsworth and Erin Mudra, assistant food service manager, visited the classroom to talk with students. “The kids were very polite. They thanked us for planning the lunches,” Ellsworth said.

The fourth-graders got a lesson in the rules and regulations that govern the federal school lunch program and dictate what must be included as meals are planned. Each serving must meet guidelines for nutrition and portion sizes. “We explained that there must be a red or orange vegetable in some meals, so we can’t simply switch to tater tots,” Ellsworth said.

Students offered several alternatives, including carrots, tomatoes, even pumpkin. “But the clear favorite suggestion was red peppers,” Ellsworth said. “I said we will see what we can do.”

Watermelon isn’t a viable option to replace pears because of the additional preparation time that would be involved in cutting individual portions.

Ellsworth emphasized that lunches are paid for by tax dollars so every effort is made to assure that food is not wasted. “The kids asked a lot of questions about how we plan the menus,” Mudra said. “I think we all learned a lot.”

“We’re always open to suggestions,” Ellsworth said.

Source, Photo: Mansfield City Schools

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