After-School Snack Bar Breaks Rules

Grace Goodman

After 2014 MCPS nutrition regulations were revised in July, RHS is in violation of them through the food sold at the after-school cafe, more widely known as the snack bar.

The snack bar is run by the Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) and has been in business for multiple years. Last year alone, the snack bar made over $6,700. This money goes toward RHS programs, such as teacher and staff grants and end-of-year awards for students through academic departments.

The county nutrition regulations include restrictions on food and drinks and focus on fats, sugars, sodium and calories. The regulations are in effect until 30 minutes after school ends.

According to Director of MCPS Division of Food and Nutrition Services (DFNS) Marla Caplon,

her division works closely with schools and their administrators to ensure that all USDA and MCPS regulations are followed. The DFSN visits all schools to ensure compliance. If an issue of non-compliance is identified, corrections are supposed to be made.

“The PTSA does our very best to comply with the guidelines established by MCPS to ensure we are offering a variety of healthful choices,” PTSA President Molly Natchipolsky said. “We review the guidelines regularly and make changes to the menu as necessary.”

Even though both the county and the PTSA said they make an effort to make sure regulations are followed, foods not in compliance with them are still being sold to students.

Parent Vicki Cohn has been volunteering at the after school snack bar a couple times a week for the past three years. According to her, Cup Noodles, pizza and muffins are the most popular items.

Cup Noodles are also one of the worst breakers of the regulations, with 1060mg of sodium when the regulation only allows 480mg of sodium for entrees.

Junior Ian Mendoza, a big fan of Cup Noodles, said, “I think it’s fine that Cup Noodles are being sold here because it gives students some type of energy before their practices. And if students don’t have energy, they won’t be 100 percent at their practices.”

However, some argue that foods that are highly processed and contain a lot of sugar and sodium, like the ones found in the snack bar, should not be eaten before a workout.

“Processed foods are definitely not what athletes should be eating and really in high quantities are not what any student should be eating,” physical education teacher Stacey Krebs said.

According to the county, more nutritious options should be added to the menu to ensure students are getting the nutrients they need to be healthy.

“Meals and snacks available to students should model healthier ingredients – reduced sodium, lower in fat and sugar, whole grains etc. An abundance of fruits and vegetables should be offered,” Caplon said.

Fruits and vegetables which are more costly and harder to store are not sold at the snack bar. Many of the assorted chips sold breached regulations on sodium and fat; however many companies are now offering reduced sodium and fat options, which may be alternatives for the school.

The regulations were revised over five months ago; however the MCPS website does not reflect this and instead includes only the outdated snack regulation.

Changes to the snack bar menu should be forthcoming. “[The PTSA] has now gotten the new guidelines from the county,” Principal Billie-Jean Bensen said.