ANAMOSA, Iowa – The complaints are nonstop.
Virtually every day small-town media outlets across the United States are reporting serious problems with their local school lunch services – collateral damage in the federal government’s attempt to fight childhood obesity through bureaucracy.
A new wave of federal regulations in the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act aimed at restricting calories, fat, sugar, salt, and other aspects of school lunches – a project spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama – is leading to drastic decreases in school lunch sales, and massive food waste when those who do eat the food trash their mandatory greens.
In the Anamosa, Iowa school district, food services director Tammy Seeley told the Journal-Eureka the federal regulations have meant “costs go up and participation goes down,” mainly because students are rejecting the bland low-everything offerings and healthy food is more expensive.
Many students are now bringing their lunch from home instead of eating at school.
The low-sodium and low-calorie meals “are great to serve, but we got to get them to eat them,” Seeley said.
“Our palates aren’t to the point where the USDA wants us to be. … We like salty foods,” she said.
Seeley said the federal edict that every student take fruit or vegetables on their plate has created so much waste she “put out a reclamation bin to collect unopened packaged food and unpeeled fruits so they can later be distributed to students for free,” the Journal-Eureka reports.
Perhaps the worst part is Michelle O’s new school food rules forced the district to sell its ice cream machine this week.
“It could no longer be used because of the healthy kids act,” district superintendent Lisa Beames told the news site.
It is virtually the exact same story in Virginia’s New Kent school district.
In September alone, cafeteria sales were down $2,000.
“Sales are down … but our expenses are way up, so the actual difference between the two is pretty negative right now. In the end, when the whole year is over, I have a feeling that we may be losing money,” school nutrition director Leslie Smith told the Tidewater Review.
She said there are national product shortages as manufacturers struggle to fit their food in the guidelines, and an increasing number of students would rather keep their $2.50 than eat what cafeteria workers can manage to concoct within the tight restrictions.
“Manufacturers cannot keep up with production. We can’t even get all of the Doritos from Frito-Lay that actually meet all of the guidelines,” Smith said.
“Everybody is struggling with this right now. Everybody is seeing their sales down,” New Kent superintendent David Myers told the Tidewater Review.
He’s exactly right.
And hundreds of school districts have actually decided to forgo federal school lunch funding and drop out of the National School Lunch Program. That’s allowed school leaders to establish their own local nutritional standards and salvage their cafeteria programs by serving students healthy meals they will actually eat.
How about them apples?