Childhood obesity: Hudson Valley (N.Y.) schools depend on snack sales to keep cafeterias solvent

Monday, July 15, 2013

While raw carrots call out for takers at a local school cafeteria, the line for the snack window is 10-deep with sixth-graders awaiting frosted zebra cakes, fried dough sticks and many more sugar- and fat-laden treats.

Why does Highland Middle School offer such junk food?

“Purely for money,” said Maria McCarthy, food service director for the district, which sold $52,000 in vending machine items and $189,000 in so-called a la carte foods and snacks in 2011-12, among them a high school favorite, nachos with cheese.

About one-third of public school children locally are overweight or obese — some district rates top 40 percent — and the numbers are rising to levels that one local pediatrician called “appalling.” Yet public schools sell sometimes-unhealthy snacks and fatty alternatives to balanced, government-regulated lunches for a simple reason: They earn hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to an exclusive Poughkeepsie Journal review of financial documents and menus and interviews with food service managers.

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