School is back in session, and a lot of changes to the National School Lunch Program take place this school year. Some of the recent new rulings have raised some concern for school food service directors and employees. An annual survey by the School Nutrition Association was released this past week to help identify areas of concern that directors are having. The 1,102 respondents to the survey were asked to select the top three issues of concern for their district as well as the top three issues of concern nationwide. Some of the top answers for concern on a district level included program participation, cost of food, implementation of competitive food regulations, and implementation of new meal patterns. Implementation of competitive food and of new meal patterns were the top concerns for the national level. The results of the survey were not surprising. These concerns have been brought up to the School Nutrition Association for months.
The new meal patterns and nutrition rules that go into effect this year were created as a result of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Schools part of the NSLP had to change their menus in order to adhere to calorie, fat, and sodium restriction. Schools also had to increase servings of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Even though it seems like these changes would be positive, schools have been receiving a lot of backlash. Issues such as increase in food costs, student acceptance of new foods, and plate waste are common for schools part of the NSLP. New rules for competitive-food regulation also went into effect as of July. This affects what can be sold even outside lunch line, such as a la carte, vending machines, and some fund raisers. Competitive foods often help increase revenue for schools, so these new rules may also contribute to loss of money for schools.
I am at a school for my current rotation and what was discussed in this article is definitely true. The district I am at is struggling with adhering to these changes without increasing costs too much or having parents and students upset about the changes. There has been a decline in revenue and student participation in the NSLP over the past couple of years in this district as well.
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