NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Students Refuse Federal Nutrition Standards, School Drops Lunch Program

August 12, 2014

A number of school districts across the United States are opting out of the federal school lunch program, according to a report from Jessica Brown of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

In the Fort Thomas Independent Schools in Campbell County, Ohio, school administrators are finding that children are refusing to eat the meals that comply with new federal nutritional standards. Food is being thrown away as children turn up their noses at unsalted potatoes and vegetables. Last year, the 2,800-student district saw 166 fewer students buying lunches, with some bringing food from home and others eating at nearby restaurants.

For the school districts, fewer lunch purchases creates a financial problem, because the school district loses money and has to draw funds from elsewhere to cover the cost of the food. According to Gene Kirchner, Superintendent of Fort Thomas Independent Schools, the district will continue to offer healthy lunches, but not as part of the federal meals program. The district will pay $260,000 annually to fund its own lunch program.

Fort Thomas' experience is not unique. In the 2013-2014 school year, almost half (47 percent) of school meal programs reported declining revenues. How many schools have actually dropped out of the federal program, however, is not as clear. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 0.15 percent of 146 surveyed schools had opted out of the program in September 2013.

The standards are the result of the 2010 Health, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which called for low-sodium, whole grains and vegetables to combat childhood obesity.

Source: Jessica Brown, "District drops federal lunch program," Cincinnati Enquirer, August 9, 2014.


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