Much has been made of the new nutrition requirements associated with the National School Lunch Program which has been in place for two years now. A search of stories and blog posts show musings and manifestos from parents and teachers who have seen pounds upon pounds of food thrown out by students who are required to take certain portions (fruits or vegetables) but won't eat it. Some school officials have pointed to the problem as a source of extreme and unnecessary waste.
The underlying problem may be nutrition requirements so specific, that cafeteria kitchens can only meet them with bland, tasteless food results. Which, no matter how you slice it, does no good at all.
It's unclear whether that's the reason one Colorado school district is opting out of the national program, regardless of the financial incentive to participate. Weeks before the start of the 2014-2015 school year, the Douglas County School District's board approved a decision to allow the districts nine high schools to drop out of the program. Students who qualify for free or reduced cost school lunches can still participate in the program, but the school district will not be reimbursed by the federal government.
The district's figures show that about 6 percent of their students qualify, and the loss in reimbursement would about to $167,000.
"We're prepared to absorb those costs," said Brent Craig, the district's director of nutrition services. "We're unique in that way. If I was managing a district with a higher number of free or reduced lunch students, I couldn't do it."
Delving deeper, the decision seems to be the result of examining what goes into meeting the NSLP requirements. In one case, the district's chef managed to get a variation of pizza to the recommended 350 calories, but only by replacing the natural cheese with modified food starch, yet it exceeded the maximum allowance of 480 mg sodium. Students didn't like the pizza, but another option, healthier than commercial pizza was well-liked. And that's what the school district would prefer investing their resources in, and ultimately feed to students.