The Associated Press is reporting that after one year, some schools are dropping the new healthier federal lunch program because the cafeterias were losing money due to kids not buying the healthier meals. While exact numbers of how many schools have dropped are not known, the AP has many examples. Further down in the story, we learn that only 1 percent of the 521 nutrition directors surveyed said they planned to drop the program and only 3 percent said they were thinking about it.
Dr. Janey Thornton, deputy undersecretary for, which oversees the program, said she is aware of reports of districts quitting but is still optimistic about the program’s long-term prospects.
“Many of these children have never seen or tasted some of the fruits and vegetables that are being served before, and it takes a while to adapt and learn,” she said.
The agency had not determined how many districts have dropped out, Thornton said, cautioning that “the numbers that have threatened to drop and the ones that actually have dropped are quite different.”
I agree with Thornton that it’s too soon for schools to dump the healthier programs. Kids need to have time to learn to love fruits and vegetables and healthier versions of favorite foods. (I think the meal they describe in the story sounds good – see below – and my kids would eat it.) I’ve always heard that kids need to try a food 10 times before adopting it. So I think the schools need to hang on in the long-term-interest of the kids.
What bothered me from the story is that the kids (mostly talking about high schoolers) are only allowed certain portions of the healthy foods, and it’s not enough to fill them up. Some of those guidelines have been changed to allow for larger servings, but I think they should be able to have larger portions on lean meats and unlimited fruits and vegetables to help them power up for class and all their after-school activities.
I’m eating fruits and vegetables and Greek Yogurt all day long to feel full and keep up my energy. I can imagine high school boys are really hungry after school, and they don’t have time to go home and eat. When my kids come home they have a big, healthy snack. They are generally very hungry.
…Federal officials say they don’t have exact numbers but have seen isolated reports of schools cutting ties with the $11 billion National School Lunch Program, which reimburses schools for meals served and gives them access to lower-priced food….
Nationally, about 31 million students participated in the guidelines that took effect last fall under the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act….
Not every district can afford to quit. The National School Lunch Program provides cash reimbursements for each meal served: about $2.50 to $3 for free and reduced-priced meals and about 30 cents for full-price meals. That takes the option of quitting off the table for schools with large numbers of poor youngsters.
The new guidelines set limits on calories and salt, phase in more whole grains and require that fruit and vegetables be served daily. A typical elementary school meal under the program consisted of whole-wheat cheese pizza, baked sweet potato fries, grape tomatoes with low-fat ranch dip, applesauce and 1 percent milk.
In December, the Agriculture Department, responding to complaints that kids weren’t getting enough to eat, relaxed the 2-ounce-per-day limit on grains and meats while keeping the calorie limits.
At Wallace County High in Sharon Springs, Kan., football player Callahan Grund said the revision helped, but he and his friends still weren’t thrilled by the calorie limits (750-850 for high school) when they had hours of calorie-burning practice after school. The idea of dropping the program has come up at board meetings, but the district is sticking with it for now.
“A lot of kids were resorting to going over to the convenience store across the block from school and kids were buying junk food,” the 17-year-old said. “It was kind of ironic that we’re downsizing the amount of food to cut down on obesity but kids are going and getting junk food to fill that hunger.”
To make the point, Grund and his schoolmates starred last year in a music video parody of the pop hit “We Are Young.” Instead, they sang, “We Are Hungry.”
It was funny, but Grund’s mother, Chrysanne Grund, said her anxiety was not.
“I was quite literally panicked about how we would get enough food in these kids during the day,” she said, “so we resorted to packing lunches most days.”
So what do you think: Should the schools drop out if they are running a deficit? Should they allow their students more time to adapt to healthier tastes? Should the high schoolers be given larger calorie portions to help fill them up if healthy foods?