Opinion: Parents survey overwhelmingly for change
By Doug Perkins and Yana Mohanty
We are writing to make parents and the school community aware of the results of a recently completed survey of the Del Mar Union School District’s (DMUSD) school lunch program. This effort was spearheaded by a volunteer group comprised of parents from each of our schools, community representatives and DMUSD staff.
Of the nearly 3,200 families with children attending our schools, nearly 1,050 responded to the on-line survey during the past two months, achieving an overwhelming response rate of slightly over 33 percent. The respondents represented 53 percent of families who currently participate in DMUSD’s school lunch program and 47 percent who do not.
From the 546 families who purchase lunch, only 29 percent were satisfied with the current program. From the 71 percent who were dissatisfied with the current program the top two reasons were failure of the lunch to meet nutritional requirements and the lack of appeal of the current menus.
Among the other significant nutritional findings regarding the current program:
• A number of entrées and snacks contain high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils.
• Most of the entrées are fully cooked and frozen by processors (e.g. Tyson), then reheated before being served to the students at the DMUSD.
• Preservatives and flavor enhancers are added to many of the entrée’s and snacks.
• All of the hot dogs and pepperoni served contain added nitrites.
From a business perspective, the survey results demonstrate a real opportunity to grow our school lunch program in order to produce more revenues, and serve a greater variety of healthier meals. Responding to the question of how often would you purchase a school lunch that meets your nutritional requirements and is within your budget, an overwhelming 940 families indicated that they would purchase one or more days per week with the largest group of families reporting all five (5) days (280) and the second largest repeating three (3) days (242). Currently, only 463 families purchase lunch one or more times a week. This repeated interest in purchasing lunches represents over a 100 percent increase in families willing to purchase better lunches from the current purchasers!
We want to encourage the parents and community to view the entire survey results online at http://www.dmusd.org/district/files/openFile.aspx?fileID=10633. And we encourage the willingness of DMUSD to address these meal concerns and look for new models and options to meet our family’s nutritional needs!
Doug Perkins is a local businessman and member of the board of trustees of the DMUSD
Yana Mohanty, Ph.D., is a math educator, Ocean Air parent and co-chair of the survey group of volunteers.
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