The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

New York School District Ditches Federal Lunch Program

July 10th, 2013 · No Comments · Posted in school food

Picking the spinach out of "healthy" lasagna

Picking the spinach out of “healthy” lasagna

I stopped my independent reporting on the school lunch program mainly because the people who run the nation’s cafeterias really don’t want anyone from the outside seeing what actually goes on in there. How we feed our kids at school is one of America’s dirtiest little secrets. Too bad, because it could be really interesting to see how some food managers are trying to do right by their kids against terribly big odds. There are some real heroes out there, I’m sure, but they’re too embarrassed to show the public what passes for meals at school.

I mention this now because I just came across a story here in Upstate New York where a school board in the Albany area has opted out of the federal lunch program because of the stringent new guidelines that were adopted by the federal government last year. Supposedly, the new rules would make school meals healthier by reducing calories and requiring more whole grains and green and orange vegetables. The USDA tried to scale back pizza and potatoes, too, but food lobbyists jumped all over that and Congress forced the USDA to stuff those particular guidelines.

According to the report out of Albany, the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Board of Education voted to leave the National School Lunch Program starting in September because of “hungry, frustrated children plus lost income” stemming from the new lunch regulations that took effect September 2012. In a release, the board said, “You can offer nutritious, healthy foods, but you can’t make kids eat them or like them.”

The board said the food service manager could do a better job of providing lunches in the district’s five schools if she were no longer burdened with the federal regulations. “There were just too many problems and too many foods that students did not like and would not purchase,” Assistant Superintendent Chris Abdoo said.

Abdoo says the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake lunch program lost around $100,000 last school year. Sales declined especially in the high school where “students felt they weren’t getting good value for their money.” More students were bringing lunch from home.

I wonder how many other school districts are experiencing similar problems. From what I saw in the cafeteria at my daughter’s school, it was obvious that kids would only eat what they wanted, despite all the efforts of adults to make them eat “healthy.” For instance, they would tear the homemade lasagna apart to remove the spinach so they could just eat the pasta. Most of the vegetables and whole grain foods went straight into the trash. The new regulations are a boondoggle precisely because you can’t force kids to eat a menu devised by a committee of adults in Washington.

The federal regulations should be scrapped. In their place, schools should be paid to put out buffets loaded with healthy choices so kids can design their own meals. Kids would be much more invested in nutrition if they had a more active role to play. Unfortunately, my version of school lunch will probably never happen in our lifetime because like all federal programs, this one is run by bureaucrats who are too much in love with their rules. And face it: Americans really don’t care that much about what kids eat.

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