The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

April 12, 2014

Students give peas a chance

Some Valley districts buck trend of kids trashing healthy lunches

Despite more than 1 million students nationwide skipping out on lunches since the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, some Valley schools have not lost any participation in their meal programs.

Officials in the Warrior Run and Lewisburg Area school districts report seeing very little or no decrease in the number of meals served in the past two school years. Shikellamy, in fact, notes a 1 percent increase in participation in the past year.

Students have been observed throwing more of their school meals into the trash in the Line Mountain district, where the number of meals served dropped 12,610 in one year — from 164,413 in 2011-12 to 151,803 in 2012-13.

Participation in Selinsgrove has dropped by about 10 percent in one school year.

“It’s been fluctuating,” said Kevin Oswald, director of food and nutrition services at Selinsgrove and Lewisburg. “The meals look healthy in general, but just because you serve them doesn’t mean they’ll eat them.”

The USDA act, spearheaded by first lady Michelle Obama, requires school districts participating in the National School Breakfast and Lunch programs to phase out white bread this year. It also requires districts to offer students more fruits, vegetables and whole-grain bread and pastas, but in smaller portion sizes and with less calories.

An audit of the act’s nutritional standards released by the Government Accountability Office earlier this month found that 48 of 50 states faced challenges complying with the regulations. A total of 1.086 million students stopped buying school lunches and 321 districts left the National School Lunch Program, according to the report.

Even though there’s been difficulty, Lewisburg Superintendent Mark DiRocco said the act is the right thing to do.

“It’s an adjustment period,” he said. “It will come back around. We should be feeding our students healthy foods and introducing them to vegetables.”

Lewisburg decreased from one year to the next by less than 5 percent, Oswald said.

Shikellamy Superintendent Patrick Kelley said the program is working itself out and the district will continue to comply with federal regulations.

Lunch is stable in the Warrior Run district, but breakfast is down, Superintendent John Kurelja said.

The district will continue to monitor the meal program and serve the food that has a higher acceptance rate, he said.

Districts can opt out of the federal program, but they would lose reimbursement for the meals and funding for students who qualify for free and reduced lunches.

 

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