Some school lunches do not meet federal nutrition requirements, according to several witnesses who testified before the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs last week. These findings may have particular relevance to thousands of meals served in the D. C. public school system.
According to an official of the General Accounting Office (GAO), its analysis of meals served in New York City, Los Angeles and Cleveland showed that they "provided significantly less than one-third of RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) in 8 of 13 nutrients - vitamin A, iron, magnesium, calories, thiamine, calcium, vitamin B6 and zinc."
Dean Crowther, deputy director of the Program Analysis Division of GAO, told the Nutrition Committee: "All studies agree that the Type-A pattern does not, in general, insure that the Type-A lunch will provide one-third of schoolchild's RDA."
The Type A-lunch, officially sanctioned by the Department of Agriculture for the school lunch program, was designed to provide one-third of the RDAs for protein, calories and certain vitamins and minerals school-age children.
Findings presented to the nutrition committee by two New York City nutritionists support GAO's findings. A study of "meal-pack lunches" done by Phyllis Liquori and Peggy Ravich in conjunction with the program in nutrition education at Columbia University Teacher's College, during a two-month period in 1976-77, reached similar conclusions. Meal packs are preplated, prepacked frozen TV-type meals manufactured by food companies who sell them to school systems. At the schools the meals are simply heated before serving.
The companies that manufacture them for use in the New York City school system include Mass Feeding Co., a subsidiary of the Jewel Companies; Morton Frozen Foods, a subsidiary of ITT Continental Baking Co.; and Glidden-Durkee Co., a division of the SCM Corp.
Ghdden-Durkee supplies similar meals to the District public schools. According to Cardinal Williams, food-program specialist with the school system, 18,604 of the approximately 70,000 meals served daily in the District are the meal-packs.
The Liquori-Ravich report, titled "The Food Fiasco: Nutritional Neglect in the New York City School Lunch Program," found the preplated meals deficient in calories, protein, iron, vitamin A, niacin, thiamine and vitamin C.
In addition, when the companies' nutrient claims for protein were compared with the laboratory analyis done for New York City's Office of School Food Service, the claims made by the meal-pack vendors were "inaccurately high," the report said.
The city of New York does not systematically sample or analyze the meal-pack lunches for nutrients, according to the report. Williams said laboratory analysis is not done in Washington either.
Whether or not the preplated meals served here are deficient in certain nutrients might depend on the specifications used by District school authorities in ordering them. If the specifications are more stringent than those applied in New York City, the likelihood of deficiencies would be reduced.
A spokesman for Morton Foods took issue with the report's findings. Bob Keane said: "We feel without question that the food does meet the protein requirements and any time any question is raised along these lines and professionally reliable evaluations have been made, our position has been substantiated. We would have to call into doubt the methods by which the food was analyzed."
Neither of the other companies would comment on the study last week.