Change coming to food service at North Adams

    Changes are coming to the food service programs at North Adams Community Schools — from the removal of salt shakers from student lunch tables to a revamped cafeteria layout at Bellmont High School.
    Erin Ripley, food service director for the school district, spoke Tuesday to the board of education about changes that will be implemented for the 2012-13 school year. Some of the noticeable differences, she said, are coming about "because federal meal requirements have changed," while others have been recommended by Ripley in conjunction with school administrators.
    The traditional food pyramid, used as a guideline to ensure students are receiving daily portions from the major food groups, has now been replaced by a color-based My Plate program. Ripley said the color-coded guidelines will make it easier for young students to make healthy choices a lunch time.
    In keeping with new federal guidelines, Ripley said the emphasis in the district has been on reducing sugar and sodium offered to students. Beginning next year, salt shakers will no longer be available to students. Also milk choices will be limited to 1 percent of fat-free milk.
    "We are using more refined grain products and nutrient dense foods," said Ripley. "Our main goal is to only offer nutritious items, while at the same time allowing students to make their own choices" when it comes to lunch items.
    Other changes, said Ripley, will be physical in nature — especially at the high school level. She said the current lunch line setup at BHS is "cumbersome to navigate" and offers only a limited number of items.    
    "We have come to the conclusion that we need a change in our design, as well as a structural change," the food director said. "We need a kinder, friendlier atmosphere."
    Using the existing lunch room layout, Ripley said the school will add new food display equipment, at a cost of approximately $50,000 this year and up to $30,000 in 2013. The new design will better accommodate student traffic during lunch periods but will also allow a broader selection of foods to be offered, she said.
    "By making these changes, I believe students will start making healthier choices," Ripley said.