SALEM, N.H. – Officials at Salem High School are coming to the same conclusion about Michelle Obama’s new lunch regulations as hundreds of other schools across the country: They’re better off ditching the restrictive regulations and the federal money that comes with them to serve students healthy food they want to eat.
Salem superintendent Michael Delahanty told the Union Leader the district wants to provide high schoolers a healthy lunch, but federal restrictions imposed on schools through the National School Lunch Program means many students won’t touch the new offerings.
To offset the federal lunch subsidies, the high school will have to take in $1,600 per day more in lunch sales than it is now, he said.
“We have to sell a substantially greater number of meals if we are going to reach the break even point, which is what we want to achieve,” he said.
Currently, the high school is selling about 485 meals per day, but will have to increase that figure to 674 to make up for the lost federal lunch money, Delahanty said.
The district plans to opt the high school out of the federal lunch program to run its own lunch program with more choices through March, and to re-examine the move then, according to the news site.
Salem is certainly not alone in its frustrations with the new lunch regulations, which were implemented through the Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act championed by First Lady Michelle Obama.
Students across the country have been tweeting pictures of their paltry lunches, and it’s drawing a lot of outrage and concern among parents. In districts from coast to coast, record numbers of students are opting to bring their lunch from home because the federal restrictions on calories, salt, fat, sugar, and other nutritional elements are rendering their school lunches inedible.
Critics contend the tight restrictions result in ridiculously small portion sizes, unidentifiable concoctions that resemble slop, and skyrocketing food waste tied to a mandate that all students take fruits or vegetables with their lunch, whether they want it or not.
Federal and independent studies show a million fewer students eat lunch at school than when the new regulations took effect in 2012. The rules have also resulted in more than $1 billion in food waste. Hundreds of schools have dropped out of the National School Lunch Program in recent years, and the number is growing by the day.
Students at D.C. Everest High School recently organized a very successful school lunch boycott to send a message to Washington D.C. that the regulations are a flop. Students in other schools have made parody videos about their hunger pangs that drew worldwide attention on YouTube.
“We looked at our lunches, and we were like, you know we’re not being served anything that’s really that healthy and we’re just being served really small portions of processed foods and we want more healthy options,” Meghan Hellrood, who organized the November boycott at D.C. Everest, told WSAW.
Eighty-five percent of students at D.C. Everest participated in the lunch boycott, in part because Hellrood and her supporters were so adamant about it they went out of their way to make lunches for students who couldn’t afford one.
“The whole point of this, the boycott (is) we wanted for the media to get involved so that essentially Washington and the federal government can look at this and say wow kids across the nation aren’t happy with our act here. Maybe we should revise it,” Hellrood said.
If Michelle Obama and Washington bureaucrats don’t yet recognize that fact, they likely soon will as other schools are latching on to Hellrood’s boycott idea.
And if the Illinois District 214 is any indication, Salem schools likely made the right move in regaining control over its lunch program.
Lunch sales in District 214 exploded when it gained the freedom to create healthy lunches students want to buy. It’s even employing the help of students in culinary arts classes to develop its new menu, the Daily Herald reports.
“Our average meal participation has increased by 20 percent or 400 meals from last year,” District 214 superintendent David Schuler told the news site.