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Local editorial

District hears food concerns

Now it's up to parents and school officials to make some changes

When a fifth-grader tells you that the food his school offers him for lunch doesn't match what he's being taught about nutrition, it's time to pay attention.

We have learned about good food, Nick Morales, a Jackson Elementary School student, said last week. We know we should eat whole grains, low-fat food and fresh fruit, get exercise and drink plenty of water, but we aren't served what we learn.

Ouch.

To their credit, Medford school officials, with the help of parents, are listening. The School Nutrition Committee, a group of parents, teachers and principals, has brought its concerns about school food to district officials. In response, the school board has delayed renewing its contract with Sodexho School Services, the company that has provided food service to the district for two decades.

The committee wants to see whole grains replace white flour and refined sugar, more low-fat proteins and fresh fruits and vegetables. Committee members also want students to be given a balanced meal, not a variety of choices that let kids opt for a cheeseburger every day.

That ought to be the starting point for any discussion of school food.

— Those of us of a certain age recall the days when school lunches consisted of a sectioned tray with one meal on it ' take it or leave it. Menus for the week were published in the newspaper, so kids and their parents could decide which days a child would buy the school lunch and which days bring a brown bag from home.

Today, students are offered a wide range of choices in the cafeteria. The rationale goes something like this: Students need fuel to get through a busy school day with the energy to learn. If they won't eat what's offered, their education suffers, so give them lots of choices we know they will eat.

The downside of that approach is that kids, being kids, will not necessarily make the choices that are best for their health. Offer them cheeseburgers, hot dogs and pizza every day, and guess what they will eat?

The pendulum is beginning to swing back now, at the urging of parents who want a little more control over their children's nutrition when they're away from home.

Sodexho representatives will meet with the School Nutrition Committee and school officials at — p.m. Monday at Roosevelt School to discuss ways to improve school lunches. Any parent concerned about what their child eats in school should be there.

Sodexho representatives say the company will do whatever the district wants. Parents need to make their desires clear, and district officials should make sure Sodexho follows through.

Spirit of cooperation

Fears that the new Planned Parenthood clinic in Ashland would threaten federal funding for existing health clinics have apparently been allayed. A spirit of cooperation has infused the agencies involved, including the Southern Oregon University student health center, the Ashland High School-based health center and the Ashland Community Health Center.

When Planned Parenthood first talked of opening an Ashland clinic, some existing providers feared it would siphon funding now available through the federal Family Planning Expansion Project. The project, designed to decrease pregnancy among low-income people and teenagers, reimburses clinics for birth-control visits and contraceptives dispensed to clients. The money follows the client, hence the fears that the new clinic would be unwelcome competition in Ashland.

But Planned Parenthood's reasons for expanding seem logical to us: Visits to its Medford clinic have increased nearly 25 percent, and many clients live in Ashland, Talent and Phoenix. Planned Parenthood says it's unlikely that established clients would change health-care providers, and it now appears the other providers have decided to welcome the new clinic.

We join them. Preventing unwanted pregnancies is a goal everyone can support.