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Healthy Choices a Double-Edged Sword

Cafeteria a la carte revenues in Plymouth, MA, public schools have plunged 44 percent in the three years since the district replaced traditional choices with whole grain baked chips and other healthier snacks, says Patrick Van Cott, director of foodservice. Van Cott says that district a la carte sales fell from $286,000 in 2003 to $161,000 in 2006.

On a positive note, the change in a la carte options has apparently boosted full lunch sales, from $577,000 in 2003 to $910,000 in 2006.

However, the healthier full lunch meals also cost more to make, with food costs rising $130,000 over the past three years, according to Van Cott. In addition to the healthier a la carte snack choices, some of the options also include smaller sizes of traditional snacks, such as the increasingly popular 100-calorie packages.

Meanwhile, among beverages, bottled water is clearly the best seller, moving about 24,000 bottles a year, with low-fat flavored milks also popular.

The district enrolls about 8,000 pupils with a 22.6-percent free/reduced eligibility.

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