By Kyle Olson, Special for USDR
Dissatisfied with school lunch edicts handed down from Washington, D.C., the Windham School District is the latest to explore opting out of the National School Lunch Program.
The Salem Observer reports:
Faced with the latest federal restrictions on school-served meals and snacks, members of the Windham school board agreed this week to explore all options. During Tuesday night’s meeting, board member Dennis Senibaldi asked district nutrition director Rhonda Peckman and business administrator Adam Steel what would happen if Windham withdrew from the federal school lunch program.
Superintendent Winfried Feneberg called them “draconian-seeming restrictions.”
The board’s heartburn stems from school lunch and snack nutrition regulations championed by First Lady Michelle Obama.
Steel told the board the district would stand to lose “thousands of dollars” in federal reimbursements each year.
“If we were to opt out, I’m assuming the district would still want to provide lunch for our needy students,” Steel says. “And that means we’d have to add at least $1.15 to our meal prices if participation rates stay the same.”
But numerous districts have experienced an increase in participation once cafeterias served more meals catered to students’ tastes and not those of Michelle Obama and federal bureaucrats.
“On the flip side, opting out of the federal lunch program would allow Windham cafeterias to offer food items not permitted within the current guidelines, which could ultimately lead to more participation, Steel noted,” the newspaper notes.
“This is significant in its scope and in our daily operations,” Steel says of the new food rules.
Windham would be the latest in a long line that have dropped out of the National School Lunch Program due to the restrictive, one-size-fits-all policies.
Schools in Alabama and Missouri dropped the restrictions and resulting revenue.
“You can go back to a little more home cooking and not have to analyze it all to death, and by doing that can make it a little more tasty. You can put a little more butter or margarine in the vegetables,” says Joan Dunning, food service director of Missouri’s Notre Dame Regional school. That means students are “not throwing it in the trash like they did before.”
Minnesota’s largest high school – Sartell High School – opted out.
District Food Services Director Brenda Braulick “says last year, between the middle and high schools, (the a la carte line) brought in $2,200 a day. So far this year, it’s been about $1,400 a day …”
Pennsylvania’s Manheim Central and Manheim Township schools both recently decided to ditch the rules for high schools over concerns about declining lunch sales, and meeting the nutritional needs of a diverse student body.
“If we are unable to serve some students extras I predict they will pack and not enter the cafeteria lines,” Manheim Central Food Service Director David Ludwig wrote in an email to Lancaster Online. “Our students all have different needs. For this reason variety is needed.”
Will Windham be next?