Fresh veggies in short supply in Tri-City schools

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 26, 2013 

Good news for Tri-City students who don't like vegetables: You might see less fresh lettuce, broccoli and other vegetables on your school lunch trays.

The bad news? You'll just get more canned and frozen vegetables instead.

A cold snap in Arizona, Central California and Mexico has caused the shortage in green leafy vegetables, along with broccoli, peppers and cucumbers, according to school officials.

Each district is handling the shortage differently, officials said but such situations aren't uncommon and their lunchrooms still will provide quality and nutritious meals to students.

"You just find what's available," said Dawn Trumbull, assistant director of nutrition services in the Richland School District.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has specific guidelines about what foods schools must provide to students if they receive funding from the federal school lunch program.

Those requirements include fruits and vegetables, though it's up to districts to decide what to serve and how to prepare meals.

"Fresh is highly desirable, but it's not required," said Leslee Caul, spokeswoman for the Pasco School District.

Pasco schools started providing less-fresh leafy greens this week because of the cold snap. There also could be fewer fresh tomatoes, carrot sticks and oranges.

Canned and frozen vegetables will be substituted, particularly quick frozen food, which is still high in nutrition, Caul said.

Trumbull said Richland still is serving fresh lettuce and oranges for the time being. Lorraine Cooper, spokeswoman for the Kennewick School District, said her district would seek to stick with fresh in its meals.

"It just costs us more," Cooper said.

School officials said there's usually a shortage of some fruit, vegetable or other food item each year, depending on crop conditions throughout the country and other factors.

Students who like fresh fruit and vegetables, still will have some options at lunch. Richland schools still are receiving fresh apples and carrots and Pasco will provide students with fresh pears and jicama.

"We'll still be able to meet all the nutritional guidelines," Caul said.

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