First lady-backed school lunch regs cost school district $100,000

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A New York school district is giving the boot to the National School Lunch Program (NLSP) and its new restrictive regulations mandating the number of calories and nutrients in each meal.

The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake school district announced this month that after a school year struggling with the new guidelines under the Michelle Obama-backed Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act, the school will not be participating in the program this coming school year.

“Students complained of being hungry with these lunches and the district lost money,” assistant superintendent Chris Abdoo said in a statement. “I’m confident we can do better on our own next year.”

According to the district, the new options, implemented by the Department of Agriculture, resulted in lower sales and a loss of about $100,000.

“Students felt they weren’t getting good value for their money,” food service manager Nicky Boehm said. “The high schoolers especially complained the portion sizes were too small, and many more students brought in lunch from home.”

The decision to leave the NSLP will result in the school district losing partial reimbursements for the cost of food served to students receiving reduced-price or free food.

With just 9 percent of the student population qualifying for subsidized lunches, compared to the New York state average of 43 percent, the district will still be offering free and reduced-price meals to those who need them — but the district will be increasing the cost of a complete meal by 25 cents, which the it says it would have had to do anyway.

Without the regulatory restrictions, the district said it will still be offering healthy options within the recommended calorie limits, but will be able to offer more options.

“The intent of the federal regulations was great, but the rigidity of the program was a back-breaker,” Boehm said.

Other school districts have also opted out of the program due to the regulations.

The Department of Agriculture has estimated that that cost of implementing the changes to the school lunch program will be $3.2 billion over the next five years.

(H/T Kyle Olson)

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