By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — If, as Ludwig Feuerbach, the 19th century German philosopher, declared, "Man is what he eats," then the students of the Laconia schools are getting a head start from the Laconia School Food Service.
Tim Goossens, director of Food Service, told the School Board this week that the nutritional value of lunches served in the five schools exceeds the standards prescribed by federal government. The Food Service operates five programs, beginning with breakfast and including lunch, after-school snacks and supper for at-risk students. In addition, pupils at the three elementary schools enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables every day. In the summer, the Food Service partners with the Belknap-Merrimack County Community Action Program to offer a food program. The service was the first in the state and remains one of three in the state to offer supper to at-risk students.
Goossens said the district joins with 47 others in a buying group representing 80,000 students, which spares "tens of thousands of dollars" in costs each year.
Goossens said that in the 2015-2016 school year the Food Service served 95,000 breakfasts, 234,000 lunches, 23,500 snacks and 16,200 after-school suppers. The content of all meals and snacks complied with the dietary and nutritional guidelines set by by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. He said that complying with standards poses a challenge, to which his staff has risen. Altogether, the staff of the Food Service has worked in the Laconia School District for 188 years, with Tess Seymour of Woodland Heights Elementary School the most senior with 38 years of experience, closely followed by Verna Peck of Pleasant Street School with 37 years of service.
Goossens said that 62 percent of students in the district qualify for free or reduced lunch. At Woodland Heights Elementary School 73 percent of pupils are eligible, at Elm Street elementary School 62 percent, at Laconia High School 58 percent, at Laconia Middle School 55 percent and at Pleasant Street Elementary School 53 percent.
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