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Pelham Parents React to School Lunch Menus

PELHAM, N.Y. – Ericka Connor was president of the PTA at Hutchinson Elementary School for the past two years. Two of her children attend the school but have some reservations about the lunch menu.

"They will never buy lunches here," Connor said. "They just refuse to buy lunch here."

Connor worked in the school's cafeteria almost every day for six months last year. She said she thinks the district tries to appeal to children by selling hamburgers and chicken nuggets, but she is not pleased with the menu.

"It's just not what I would feed my kids," Connor said. "I wouldn't even feed it to them for dinner. It's disgusting."

Connor suggested alternatives, including peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread, fresh fruit and cheese sticks.

On average, American school children will eat more than 2,300 lunches over the course of their primary and secondary educations. If they are opting into school lunch programs, much of their long-term nutrition is dictated by the choices the school district provides.

Nationwide, approximately 17 percent - or 12.5 million - children and adolescents aged two to 19 years are obese, according to data from the National Health and Examination Survey. The Centers for Disease Control defines childhood obesity as having a Body Mass Index at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex. The CDC regards a child as overweight if his or her BMI falls between the 85th and 95th percentiles.

According to the CDC, overweight and obese kids are at increased risk of multiple health problems, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and fatty liver disease. And this is to say nothing of the potential psychological effects of being an overweight child. Additionally, the CDC finds that children who are overweight are more likely to become overweight or obese adults.

But not all parents are as opinionated about Pelham's school lunch menus as Connor. Reader Michelle Parella Boyle posted on The Daily Pelham's Facebook page that she does not worry about childhood obesity.

"I fed my kids healthy foods and they were an average weight," Boyle wrote. "If a parent thinks food at a school cafeteria is unhealthy, they should contact the school to let them know that the food choices are unacceptable."

Jennifer Gundersen, director of dining for Chartwells Dining Services, said via email that the company refuses to serve any deep fried foods for lunch to the children in the district and actually removed the deep fryers from the schools. She added that healthier options have increased satisfaction in the district.

"The reaction this year has been positive," Gundersen said. "The children and families are happy with the choices and the participation has been great."

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