Healthy snacks aren’t so popular with high schoolers, judging by cafeteria revenues.
Stringent state nutritional guidelines adopted in 2012 have led to a decrease in snack sales at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.
Sales of beverages and snacks, known as a la carte options, are down 16 per cent in the first two months of this school year, Mark Friedman, high school finance manager, told the school budget subcommittee Monday. “That is a continuation of the trend we have seen,” said Mr. Friedman.
Overall, the school saw a 14 per cent decrease in cafeteria revenues last year.
Vineyard schools superintendent Dr. James H. Weiss said he believed high school kids have little appetite for the wholesome, locally grown diet that’s fed to the students in Island schools these days. “Our high school kids don’t value that, and that means they won’t participate, and that means the revenue goes down,” Mr. Weiss said.
Six years ago when the cafeteria served less nutritious items like chocolate milk and fries, the cafeteria fared better financially. But new state standards adopted in August of 2012 outlaws all beverages other than juice, milk, milk substitutes and water. The new standards also limit the amount of fat and calories present in snack foods. “There’s no longer an option to come out with a plate of French fries,” said school business administrator Amy Tierney.
To boost sales, Chartwells, the company that manages the high school cafeteria, has proposed introducing a premium meal option involving labor-intensive specialties like spring rolls. “They are going to try a few things like that, but they are limited in what they can do” by state nutritional guidelines, Ms. Tierney said.
School committee member Roxane Ackerman suggested that the school consult with staff members about making healthy food patterns more desirable in the same way that elementary teachers incorporate Island Grown Schools programming into curriculum. “I don’t know whether engaging the faculty might be a way of finding ways to make our cafeteria more profitable,” she said.
Meanwhile, sales of full meals have increased 4.8 per cent in the first two months of the year. Currently, 18 per cent of students, or 126, have registered for the free and reduced lunch program, double the rate signed up 10 years ago. “There has been a concerted effort to get them to sign up,” Mr. Weiss explained. A full-priced lunch costs three dollars.
During a district school committee meeting that followed, the regional high school committee approved the use of the land behind the Martha’s Vineyard Arena for construction of a cellular tower. The arena purchased the property from the high school district in 1974, but the language of the deed specified that the property be used solely for recreational purposes.
In an effort to secure a new revenue source, the arena said it will lease the land to Grain Management, a wireless infrastructure company founded by Chilmark resident David A. Grain, also a regional high school alumnus.
“Being a nonprofit organization, we are always in desperate need of money,” said arena director Jerry Murphy. Grain can rent the tower to as many as three mobile carriers at once.
Mr. Murphy said the arena’s current revenue sources do not match operating costs. When the tower goes up, the ice arena stands to bring in a rental fee of $12,000 to $15,000 per carrier per year, which together could offset as much as 11 per cent of its operating budget, Mr. Murphy said.
The arena also has looked into installing solar arrays on the roof and hosting more tournaments to boost revenue.
The committee also voted to dedicate the high school tennis courts to retired tennis coach Frank (Ned) Fennessy. Mr. Fennessy, who coached the team for 23 years, advocated for the construction of the two lower courts at the school. The recommendation was introduced by Russ MacDonald, a teacher and former coach.
Monday’s meeting was the first attended by new assistant superintendent Matt D’Andrea.