WASHINGTON, D.C. – Michelle Obama’s national “healthy” school lunch overhaul is producing massive food waste from K-12 schools across the country, estimated by some at $3.5 million per day.
The relatively new federal lunch regulations, implemented in 2010, limit the number of calories, fat, salt and other aspects of student lunches, and require cafeteria workers to serve students a heaping helping of fruits and vegetables, whether they want it or not, according to media reports.
Predictably, most students opt to dump their greens in the garbage, creating a steady flow of fresh food from cafeteria shelves to the trash compactor.
“The food ended up in the garbage instead of the kids’ mouths,” Wisconsin’s Waterford Graded School District Superintendent Christopher Joch recently told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Rick Petfalski, president of the Muskego-Norway school board (also in Wisconsin) told the news site that district leaders are willing to ditch the federal lunch program after the rules resulted in a $54,000 deficit in the district’s school lunch program. Students aren’t interested in the “healthy” lunches, he said.
“By leaving the program we will not be required to follow these onerous guidelines, pushed by and large by Michelle Obama who, last time I checked, has been elected by no one,” Petfalski said.
“We believe that proper food nutrition and meal portion guidelines are best decided at a local level,” he said.
Other Wisconsin school districts, such as Central High School District of Westosha are also reporting five-figure lunch program deficits because of the federal lunch mandates, according to the news site.
School district in states across the country are reporting the same problems with massive food waste and nose-diving lunch sales.
The complaints from school officials and hungry students prompted lawmakers in the U.S. House to move forward on legislation that would allow schools to apply for a waiver from the federal lunch regulations. The move is supported by the School Nutrition Association and strongly opposed by the First Lady, who has vowed to fight for her pet project “until the bitter end,” the Associated Press reports.
“The last thing that we can afford to do right now is play politics with our kids’ health, especially when we’re finally starting to see some progress on this issue,” Michelle Obama said in a meeting with supporters of her lunch overhaul.
SNA spokeswoman Diane Pratt-Heavner, however, has pointed out that 1 million fewer students now participate in the federal lunch program than when the first round of standards went into effect in 2012.
“How can we call these standards a success when they are driving students away from the program?” she said, according to the AP.
A recent Government Accountability Institute report estimated the total amount of wasted school lunches has reached about $1 billion per year, according to Fox. Legislation is currently awaiting a vote from the full U.S. House that would provide schools waivers from the federal regulations, although the president has threatened to veto the bill if it’s approved, the AP reports.