Sources: School nutrition failure is overblown

08/28/2013 04:41:00 PM
Tom Karst

USDAHeadlines in late August shouted that students were so unhappy with new school lunches during the last year that some school districts are quitting the federal school lunch program.

However, negative press highlighting those few schools doesn’t tell the story of the many school districts who have successfully implemented updated nutrition standards, nutrition advocates and U.S. Department of Agriculture officials said Aug. 28.

Headlined “Some School Districts Quit Healthier Lunch Program,” an Aug. 27 Associated Press story said claimed so many students shunned the more nutritious lunches that the school cafeterias were losing money, leading some districts to drop the program.

Updated nutrition standards were implemented in fall 2012, mandating schools serve more fruits and vegetables in school meals. The story, citing dropout school districts in Illinois and New York, was featured on The Drudge Report, The Washington Post online and other news media.

“The truth is that the vast majority of schools across the country are meeting the updated meal standards successfully, which is so important to help all our nation’s children lead healthier lives,” Janey Thornton, U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services said in a Aug. 28 blog post.

Thornton, providing links to success stories from across the U.S., said schools that adopted the changes earlier report participation increased as students and parents became accustomed to the healthier options.

Schools that have implemented the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program or have put in salad bars in their cafeterias typically have had a much easier transition into new meal standards, according to Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health for the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C.

DiSogra said an Arkansas school official said to her that elementary schools in that state that have had the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program had an easy time in implementing new school lunch nutrition regulations.

“Those schools that were already focused in one way or another about getting kids to try more fruits and vegetables, and were beginning to make those changes — those schools had no problems,” she said.

Kids exposed to fruits and vegetables for several years through the snack program were very receptive to more fruits and vegetables served in school lunches, she said.


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Vance    
Arizona  |  August, 29, 2013 at 10:09 AM

Since when have school districts been in the profit making business? Losing money on their lunch program is not possible. Also what school district in their right mind turns down free food? 99.9% of kids hate vegetables and given a choice won't eat them, those same 99.9% love fruit. My daughter won't eat "green things", one son won't eat any "vingentunbles" as he calls them, but he'll eat apples, pears, grapes and any other fruit like there is no tomorrow. The 2nd son will eat some vegetables and not others, but eats fruit just like his brother. I hated vegetables too when I was 7. I turned out okay.

Meg    
Connecticut  |  August, 29, 2013 at 12:01 PM

It's not about profit, it's about a bottom line. If kids aren't buying the meals, the reimbursement doesn't make up for the difference. Schools then have to make up that deficit with higher property taxes. And there is no "free food" schools are getting - they're getting a portion of the cost of the meal reimbursed. Kids can learn to eat vegetables. Like this article said it's a matter of preparing them gradually instead of dropping a whole new menu on them without warning.

Luis    
Arizona  |  August, 29, 2013 at 06:52 PM

Right about the finances Meg, and yes:"Kids can learn to eat vegetables". That's the whole point. For those naysayers who suggest there is no need, there is plenty of evidence about nutritional imbalances in the kid population. The public interest demands that schools not only offer a quality education but also wholesome meals. Advice to parents: Don't wait and grow old trying to find out if you and your kids "eat OK".

Epic Fail    
Missouri  |  October, 29, 2013 at 01:04 PM

Before the new rules we had a very nice salad bar - now we have prepackaged salads that are prone to making one ill. This was done on account of the requirement that certain things be included, which can still be thrown away.

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