partlycloudy
Saturday August 1st, 2015 2:21PM

Small number of schools drop out of lunch program

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Agriculture Department says 524 schools - out of about 100,000 - have dropped out of the federally subsidized national school lunch program since the government introduced new standards for healthier foods last year.

The new standards have met with grumbling from school nutrition officials who say they are difficult and expensive to follow, conservatives who say the government shouldn't be dictating what kids eat and - unsurprisingly - from some children who say the less-greasy food doesn't taste as good. But USDA says the vast majority of schools are serving healthier food, with some success.

Data to be released Monday by the department shows that 80 percent of schools say they have already met the requirements, which went into place at the beginning of the 2012 school year. About one-half percent have dropped out of the program.

In an effort to stem high childhood obesity levels, the new guidelines set limits on calories and salt, and they phase in more whole grains in federally subsidized meals served in schools' main lunch line. Schools must offer at least one vegetable or fruit per meal and comply with a variety of other specific nutrition requirements. The rules aim to introduce more nutrients to growing kids and also to make old favorites healthier - pizza with low-fat cheese and whole-wheat crust, for example, or baked instead of fried potatoes.

If schools do not follow the rules, or if they drop out, they are not eligible for the federal dollars that reimburse them for free and low-cost meals served to low-income students. That means wealthier schools with fewer needy students are more likely to be able to operate outside of the program.

According to the USDA data, gathered from the states that administer the programs, 90 of the 524 schools that dropped out of the program said specifically that they did so because of the new meal-plan requirements. Most of the rest did not give a reason.

Some school nutrition officials have said buying the healthier foods put a strain on their budgets. A study by the Pew Charitable Trusts' Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project, also expected to be released Monday, said that 91 percent of school food officials the group surveyed said they face challenges in putting the standards in place, including problems with food costs and availability, training employees to follow the new guidelines, and a lack of the proper equipment to cook healthier meals.

But that study says 94 percent of the more than 3,300 officials surveyed said they expect to be able to meet all of the requirements by the end of this school year.

"It shows that this is certainly doable," said Jessica Donze Black, director of the Pew project, which has lobbied for healthier foods.

Leah Schmidt, president of the School Nutrition Association and director of nutrition programs at a Kansas City, Mo. school district, said any schools that would consider forgoing the federal funds would have to have very few students eating the free and reduced-cost meals.

She agreed that many schools have met challenges in trying to meet the new standards, but she said that is to be expected.

"Any time you have something new, you're going to have some growing pains," she said.

As some schools struggled to follow the new guidelines at the beginning of the last school year, USDA relaxed some of the original requirements. In December, the department did away with daily and weekly limits on meats and grains that school nutrition officials said were too hard to follow.

Congress has also had its say on the new guidelines. In 2011, after USDA first proposed them, Congress prohibited USDA from limiting potatoes and French fries and allowed school lunchrooms to continue counting tomato paste on pizza as a vegetable.

The school lunch rules apply to federally subsidized lunches served at reduced or no cost to low-income children. Those meals have always been subject to nutritional guidelines because they are partially paid for by the federal government, but the new rules put broader restrictions on what could be served as childhood obesity rates have skyrocketed.

Schoolchildren can still buy additional foods in other parts of the lunchroom and the school. Separate USDA rules to make those foods healthier could go into effect as soon as next year.
© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 1 year ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Kerry seeks framework for Mideast peace talks
A senior State Department official says Secretary of State John Kerry will try this week to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for negotiating a final peace agreement, yet cautions against raising expectations for Kerry's latest round of shuttle diplomacy.
1:35PM ( 1 year ago )
U.S. News
Missing Ga. bank director arrested in Brunswick
A bank director accused of losing millions of investors' dollars before vanishing last year was arrested Tuesday during a traffic stop in a city in south Georgia.
7:00PM ( 1 year ago )
Amtrak to suspend some Crescent service in Jan., Feb.
Amtrak service will shut down in parts of the Southeast for several days in January and February for rail maintenance by Norfolk Southern Railway.
9:00AM ( 1 year ago )
Lung cancer scans urged for some smokers, not all
Certain current or former heavy smokers should start getting yearly scans for lung cancer to cut their risk of death from the nation's top cancer killer, government advisers said Monday - even as they stressed that the tests aren't for everyone.
7:26AM ( 1 year ago )
Business News
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Victim critical following apartment fire
A 41-year-old woman was in critical but stable condition Tuesday after being rescued from an apartment fire in Forsyth County late Monday afternoon.
3:16PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Feeling US snub, Saudis strengthen ties elsewhere
Increasingly vocal in its frustration over U.S. policies in the Mideast, Saudi Arabia is strengthening ties elsewhere, seeking out an alignment that will bolster its position after it was pushed to the sidelines this year.
4:34PM ( 1 year ago )
NSA reportedly intercepts computer deliveries
A German magazine has lifted the lid on the operations of the National Security Agency's hacker unit, revealing how American spies intercepted computer deliveries, exploited hardware vulnerabilities, and even hijacked Microsoft's bug report system to spy on their targets.
12:31PM ( 1 year ago )
Rockets fired from Lebanon into Israel
Rockets from Lebanon struck northern Israel on Sunday, causing no injuries but sparking an Israeli reprisal shelling in a rare flare-up between the two countries.
12:26PM ( 1 year ago )
Politics
Judge blocks release of new recordings by anti-abortion group
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal judge on Friday blocked the release of any recordings made at meetings of an abortion providers' association by an anti-abortion group that previously revealed secretly...
8:30AM ( 5 hours ago )
Firefighter killed battling blaze in California forest
ALTURAS, Calif. (AP) — A U.S. Forest Service firefighter from South Dakota has been killed battling one of more than a dozen wildfires raging across California, Forest Service officials said Friday ni...
12:31AM ( 13 hours ago )
'Gut-wrenching' decision: Search for teens suspended
OPA-LOCKA, Fla. (AP) — After hundreds of rescue workers fanned out across a massive swath of the Atlantic for a full week, the Coast Guard's search for two teenage fishermen ended Friday, a heart-rend...
10:42PM ( 15 hours ago )
Clinton releases tax, health records on busy Friday
WASHINGTON (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband paid close to $44 million in federal taxes since 2007 and she is in "excellent physical condition" — two facts that emerged Friday in a flood o...
7:59PM ( 18 hours ago )
Dozens of Clinton emails censored for security reasons
WASHINGTON (AP) — Dozens of emails that traversed Hillary Clinton's private, unsecure home server contain national security information now deemed too sensitive to make public, according to the latest...
5:54PM ( 20 hours ago )