It is surprising to find out that the New York State Comptroller has audited New Rochelle’s school lunch. Shouldn’t the office that is responsible for managing the state’s ever-shrinking pension fund, and overseeing the spending and purchasing practices of schools, municipalities and state agencies, have more important things to look after? But as staff writer Hannan Adley reported today, the state comptroller’s office has advised New Rochelle to ban unhealthy foods.
The audit report issued by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli notes that the State Education Department does not give specific guidelines on what snacks should be sold, so the comptroller’s office decided to fill the information vaccuum. Officials from the comptroller’s office met with officials from the health sector, including the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, and decided to compare the school district’s offerings to guidelines issued by the Institute of Medicine. The report even contains a chart comparing 10 snack items available in New Rochelle school vending machines — from popcorn to ranch flavored chips — to see if they meet district and IOM standards — now that’s a departure from the more arcane sets of charts usually found in Comptroller’s reports.
New Rochelle’s selections didn’t always measure up. The state ordered New Rochelle schools to take corrective action on six recommendations. The recommendations call for the district to create a wellness policy and ensure that all of the foods and drinks served in school buildings comply with the policy’s goals. The audit points out that the less-healthy snacks and drinks the district sells are “compete” with the nutritionally-balanced federally subsized lunch program offered and recommends that the district consider limiting the “competitive” foods that are available in the district’s 11 schools.
New York is a state where officials make names for themselves by crossing jurisdictional lines (remember when then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer was dubbed the “Sheriff of Wall Street” for enforcing what the federal government wouldn’t?) But other than the fact that New Rochelle’s vending machine and snack offerings might under cut the goals of the subsidized lunch program, it’s hard to see why the Comptroller’s office is nosing around in the school cafeteria.