Why Some Schools Are Saying ‘No Thanks’ to the School-Lunch Program

  • Share
  • Read Later
Tooga / The Image Bank via Getty Images

UPDATED* States are reporting that some of their schools are dropping out of the healthier school-lunch program because they can’t afford to participate. But does that really mean nutritious school lunches (and snacks) are doomed?

The majority of the nation’s schools — about 94% — are participating in the National School Lunch Program, which reimburses schools for the meals they serve and provides food at lower cost to feed lower-income students. These schools must follow new criteria required by the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, and include more grains, fresh fruits and vegetables in lunches. But for some, these changes are pretty challenging to follow.

In a survey conducted this summer of more than 520 district nutrition directors, the School Nutrition Association reported that a very small percentage — 1% — of schools were dropping out of the program for the 2013–14 school year, and 3% were considering abandoning the program.

(MORE: What the New USDA Rules for Healthier School Snacks Mean for Schools)

Why? Kids aren’t buying the better-for-them options in the cafeteria, and that’s leading to a drop in revenue for some schools. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) pays schools back about $2.93 cents per lunch served to a child eligible for free meals, and the USDA offers an additional 6¢ per lunch for schools meeting the standards. But for smaller or nonprofit private schools that simply don’t have enough kids who qualify for these lunches, the often higher costs to feed them healthy meals that adhere to the new nutrition guidelines are not covered by this reimbursement.

“My understanding, from a few of the districts that have dropped off, is that their free and reduced percentage could be as low as 5% of the students, which means that all they are getting for the reimbursable meal is 30¢,” says Julia Bauscher, the president-elect of the School Nutrition Association and school-nutrition director at Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Ky. “If they had previously not offered a lot of whole grains or fruits and vegetables, or their students didn’t choose them, there was a significant increase in cost of providing the meals.”

Take the Voorheesville Central School District near Albany, N.Y., which the Associated Press featured in its story about schools struggling with the new lunch-program requirements. Superintendent Teresa Snyder says the district lost $30,000 in revenue during the first quarter of the year because of the program, since students either brought lunch from home or went without, instead of purchasing the healthier options offered in the cafeteria.

But that district is very small, and less than 6% of its students qualify for reduced or free lunch. The school still offers healthy food, and to find a way to maintain the school-lunch program, administrators worked with students to develop a nutritious and more cost-effective menu that would appeal to kids. “For us, this is not a political statement, but an economic one. We believe in the intent of the law, it simply does not apply to a district like ours,” says Snyder. “I do believe our issues revolve around our small population of free and reduced lunch — the reimbursements are so low they do not balance the cost of providing the meals according to the guidelines.”

(MORE: Stricter School-Lunch Standards Lead to Lighter Kids)

Smaller schools may also face an additional hurdle, since most of the people responsible for achieving this balance are volunteers who aren’t trained in nutrition — or food distribution. “In Kansas we have a lot of private schools and oftentimes the food-service director may be a parent, and they may not have had a lot of background in food service, so they need additional help and training. Our public schools have people who have more experience,” says Cheryl Johnson, director of child nutrition and wellness for the Kansas State Department of Education.

Of course, the entire program is predicated on the fact that children will welcome — and eat — the healthier options. As TIME has reported, schools with the greatest success in making their cafeterias healthier started early and introduced changes gradually. The Jefferson County Public Schools district in Louisville, Ky., for example, made its lunchrooms offer 50% whole grains for an entire year before the rules were even enacted, for example.

“The bigger the difference between what [the students] were accustomed to seeing on their serving line in 2011 to 2012 vs. what they saw in 2012 to 2013, the more difficult it was for the school food-service director to address the needs and concerns of the students,” says Bauscher.

USDA undersecretary Kevin Concannon says the schools that have been the most successful have also considered food presentation. For instance, dyeing applesauce bright green seems to draw students to grab it in the lunch line — possibly because they think it’s sweeter and more decadent than it actually is. “It’s a matter of really training the palate. Kids are the same as adults, we get used to eating certain ways and all of a sudden there’s an abrupt change,” he says.

(MORE: More Food for Hungry Students: USDA Tweaks School Meals)

The most difficult to please, not surprisingly, are teens in high school. Because they are probably more set in their eating habits, and because high school athletes, for example, need to eat more calories, these schools have experienced the most backlash against the new lunch options, which many students felt were too skimpy. (Wallace County High School students in Sharon Springs, Kans., even made a video that went viral last year in which they sang about their hunger pangs.)

In response to these complaints, the USDA decided to waive some of the original restrictions, by removing limits on the amount of protein and whole grains per meal. Those amendments to the rules will remain in effect this school year. Johnson says after the video, there was a 5% drop in participation among Kansas schools, but that had shrunk to only 3% by the end of the school year.

It may take several school years for the new lunch standards to be accepted, and several more before their effects are seen in children’s eating habits. What we consume, not to mention the process of sourcing, preparing and distributing food, can’t be changed overnight, much less over a semester or two. “Eating healthier is a good thing, but it is more expensive. And the truth is most students don’t want to eat healthier, so there has been and will be a transition period because what is being served at school in many cases doesn’t look like what they eat at home,” says Michael Smith, the superintendent at Tuscola Community Unit School District No. 301 in Tuscola, Ill. “I’m a proponent of the new standards health-wise, but it is another example of how all of these issues are dumped on schools. I wish they would also be addressed in other places where students eat, like fast-food [restaurants] and gas stations.”

Still, the goal of the new standards is to encourage healthy eating early on, before unhealthy habits set in. If children in elementary schools are seeing more grains and fresh produce in their cafeterias, then they may be more likely to try them and continue eating them as adolescents and adults. School, after all, is a place for learning, and that includes the cafeteria.

*This piece was updated with the latest numbers on school lunch participation.

103 comments
brightfuture
brightfuture

Die NeuwagenQuelle mit großem Spareffekt! Erfahren Sie mehr über Schnäppchen Konditionen und Rabatte bei Neuwagenkauf.


NeuwagenvermittlungI

brightfuture
brightfuture

Fisher Method

 I think this is an informative post and it is very useful and knowledgeable. therefore, I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article.

toshiba123
toshiba123

This is an awesome post. Just one of the very best post I've ever seen. What a really good and awesome post. Keep up your work on articles.

dolar a peso

brightfuture
brightfuture

Classical Compass Outdoor Camping Hiking Portable Brass Compass Pocket Round Flip Compass Online Navigation Tool - GoldenCompass

brightfuture
brightfuture

The first several months of my site there were no comments; just give it time; now they come in like crazy every day! Thanks.



paleo grubs recipe

brightfuture
brightfuture

Aussie Method Review

  • The Aussie Method system is once users open a binary options account they don’t need to risk real money at first, they can actually trade on demo account and master the system before they start to in real money to generate profits.

brightfuture
brightfuture

jee main 2016 application form notification important dates syllabus eligibility result admit card sample paper previous year paper

jee main sample paper

brightfuture
brightfuture

Interesting post. I Have Been wondering about this issue, so thanks for posting. Pretty cool post.It 's really very nice and Useful post.Thanks

ignou.ac.in

redsky118
redsky118

Bathroom Luxuries is a newly formed sister company to our already successful bathroom showroom company Aqua Bathroom (Twickenham) Ltd which is based in Richmond Road, Twickenham Houston Tow Trucks

brightfuture
brightfuture

0892 22 20 22 votre Voyance Gratuite par Téléphone. Voyance de votre vie sentimentale, voyance de votre amour... 0892 22 20 22, vos questions trouveront réponse

voyance par telephoneReport

brightfuture
brightfuture

A very nice and good post this. I really like it very much. Keep this quality of your work on articles going on and please do not let the quality of your articles fall to bad. Cheers!

voyance-amour-eternel.com

brightfuture
brightfuture

I feel every consumer should know surrounding Thomas Colemans Tinnitus Miracle System book and complete guide for taking necessary precautions and improve weight loss simultaneously

BinaryHijack

brightfuture
brightfuture

Our condominiums will be visually appealing, in harmony with their communities, and will revitalize and renew old land and spaces. They will feature environmental and green elements that will raise the bar in responsible development.

Fishmania

brightfuture
brightfuture

This post is very simple to read and appreciate without leaving any details out. Great work! You completed certain reliable points there. I did a search on the subject and found nearly all persons will agree with your blog.

The Private Society

redsky118
redsky118

Houston Limousine and Houston Limo Services in Houston TX, Airport Transportation, Occasions Limo, Quinceanera Limo, Wedding Limo, Cruise Limo, Houston IAH Airport Transportation, Houston Hobby Airport Transportation, Airport to Hotel, Home, Office.Corporate Limo

redsky118
redsky118

Houston Limo Service provides Houston Limo & Houston Limousine Services in and around Houston, TX for Occasions, Houston Airports, Galveston Cruise, Corporate Travel.Limousine Service Houston

redsky118
redsky118

Houston Party Bus Limos, Occasions Party Bus limousine for Houston Weddings, Proms, Night Out, Corporate Party Bus, Event Party Buses, Passengers Party Bus, Party bus limo services in Houston TX. Corporate Party Bus

brightfuture
brightfuture

Happy New Year Hindi Sms

Allow me to many thanks towards likes and dislikes somebody develop nevertheless disseminating this kind of write-up. I am just seeking to find the best operate within the identical by way of somebody on the medial side resistant.

brightfuture
brightfuture


Your very own commitment to getting the message throughout came to be rather powerful and have consistently enabled employees just like me to arrive at their desired goalshttp://fishermethod.com/

brightfuture
brightfuture

RockTheStock.co

Great tips and very easy to understand. This will definitely be very useful for me when I get a chance to start my blog.

redsky118
redsky118

Houston Limousine and Houston Limo Services in Houston TX, Airport Transportation, Occasions Limo, Quinceanera Limo, Wedding Limo, Cruise Limo, Houston IAH Airport Transportation, Houston Hobby Airport Transportation, Airport to Hotel, Home, Office. Airport Limo

brightfuture
brightfuture



This content is written very well. Your use of formatting when making your points makes your observations very clear and easy to understand. Thank you. 
Special Papers

jokerkh12
jokerkh12

 must say and thanks for the information. Education is definitely a sticky subject. However, is still among the leading topics of our time. I appreciate your post and look forward to more.Wikipedia Backlinks

jokerkh12
jokerkh12

reat post i must say and thanks for the information. Education is definitely a sticky subject. However, is still among the leading topics of our time. I appreciate your post and look forward to more.Wikipedia Backlinks

brightfuture
brightfuture

Your work is very good and I appreciate you and hopping for some more informative posts. Thank you for sharing great information to us.

elo boosting

brightfuture
brightfuture


I ‘d mention that most of us visitors are really endowed to exist in a fabulous place with very many wonderful individuals with very helpful things - See more atlol boost

brightfuture
brightfuture

I don’t know what has happened to the custom of delivering consistent good articles. I hope that the custom comes alive after this..thumbs up for your work.24Option.com

brightfuture
brightfuture

You can therefore depend on such if you have future plans of renting or selling your home and this will help you to fetch more in the market.

Wine Australia

brightfuture
brightfuture


Really great post, Thank you for sharing This knowledge.Excellently written article, if only all bloggers offered the same level of content as you, the internet would be a much better place. Please keep it up! Matka

brightfuture
brightfuture

Your very own commitment to getting the message throughout came to be rather powerful and have consistently enabled employees just like me to arrive at their desired goals.Plug Grip

brightfuture
brightfuture



Teacup PuppyBlog Dermatologista Florianópolis. Dermatologia Estética, Dermatologia Clínica e Laser. Botox, Preenchimentos, Sutura Silhoutte, Peeling, Queda de Cabelo.

brightfuture
brightfuture

Got some appealing information and would like to give it a try. Applaud your work and keep sharing your information.Piotrek

brightfuture
brightfuture

Binary App 810

You have done a great job. I will definitely dig it and personally recommend to my friends. I am confident they will be benefited from this site.

brightfuture
brightfuture

This is such a great information for me, because i do an online job thats why i need fast Internet connection, i search how to bost internet speed then ireach at a right place.

Website Builder

brightfuture
brightfuture

Thanks a lot for sharing this amazing knowledge with us. This site is fantastic. I always find great knowledge from it.

MOBE

brightfuture
brightfuture

Excellent blog you've got here .. It's difficult to find excellent writing like yours nowadays. I honestly appreciate Individuals like you! Take care!

genf

nomi
nomi

Blog Comment

If you are having a custom-made "Just Married" sign built, it is now time to help consult an area musician to create something for you personally. Or even, if you're a craft-queen, you can create one by yourself

brightfuture
brightfuture

Hello ! I just wish to give an enormous thumbs up for the nice info you’ve got right here on this post. I will probably be coming back to your weblog for more soon what to text your ex girlfriend to get her back.web hosting

sl786982
sl786982

wow, great, I was wondering how to cure acne naturally. and found your site by google, learned a lot, now i’m a bit clear. I’ve bookmark your site and also add rss. keep us updated.  easy credit repair

gal14
gal14

I think that the lunch program was fine until they started changing them. I make sure my kids eat healthy and aren't overweight  at all. Now with all the healthy food its just ridicoulous what some of these choices are now. My daughter has last lunch and now has to skip lunch at least one day a week because of these so called healthy choices that I wouldn't even eat myself.! I eat almost everything and they have taken away everything away from white bread to pizza. I cant help if the rest of the parents in the world don't watch their kids diet but my kids suffer now because of all the obesity!! I think its unfair to those kids whose parents watch what they eat and don't have weight problem!!!! Now, most of time my daughter doesn't get hot lunch anymore due to the so called healthy lunches!! If more parents would pay attention to their childs weight the rest of our kids could be more lenient at lunchtime! Also, my kid loves milk but now get water at lunch because its completely fat free now it used to be 2%!!!

asadalikhatri
asadalikhatri

There are millions of programs, websites, television shows, magazines, and movies regarding health and fitness. Recently, the trends of diets and lifestyle habits have become more and more encouraged.vigrx oil reviews

AAKDJ
AAKDJ

His films, documentaries and plays have all been as complex and diversified as his real life. He has been called an opinionated and determined producer, descriptions evident in his incredible knack for choosing the right actors for the right roles and projects.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Bass_%28producer%29

MarkKaspersky
MarkKaspersky

Less than 10 years ago I worked for a district that apparently tried to improve the menu by telling the cook staff to incorporate more green foods.  The staff were not well educated in nutrition so the result was a lunch tray full of foods that had green food dye added to each food item! winmasters