In a Wednesday hearing before the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, experts from the School Nutrition Association (SNA) testified that the food offered under new school lunch standards, implemented under the leadership of First Lady Michelle Obama, is being rejected by a large number of students. The experts also cited data that the cost of implementing the new standards has led to a loss of revenue for schools across the country.
The SNA's incoming Vice President, Dr. Lynn Harvey told the committee that the primary problem stems from the fact that the new cafeteria offerings simply don't taste very good.
"For two years, local School Nutrition Directors have offered these items under ideal conditions and have encouraged students to try them, explained Harvey. Yet, students continue to reject them because their taste, texture and appearance are quite different from that to which they are accustomed…Students’ dissatisfaction with whole grain-rich biscuits has led to a decline in breakfast participation in 60% of our school districts.”
With fewer students buying food from school cafeterias the the school meal programs have experienced a significant loss of revenue.
“Over half of School Nutrition Programs in North Carolina are operating at a revenue loss. The average loss is nearly $2.5 million,” Dr. Harvey testified.
Harvey also shared similar stories of dissatisfaction from other states.
In one example, Siri Perlman, a nutrition specialist from the Dieguito Union High School District explained that the unappetizing food options were driving kids to abandon the school cafeterias and going off campus for far less healthy options.
“The new Smart Snacks regulations have not had the intended effect in our district. Many students are upset that healthy reimbursable meal entrees can no longer be sold a la carte and that some popular options like hummus and pretzels are off the menu. With a la carte choices so limited, many students go off campus for fast food, soda and sugary snacks. We have experienced a 10 percent drop in revenue and anticipate a nearly $175,000 loss this school year. Allowing reimbursable entrees to be sold a la carte every day would provide students with a larger variety of nutritious choices and help to restore our financial solvency. Food is only nutritious if they eat it.”
- "They used to LOVE eating lunch at school. NOW, I get complaints from them every day!"
- "Our Thanksgiving lunch was embarrassing - the whole grain-rich corn bread dressing was sad, sad, sad."
- "Requiring them to take something that is going to go straight to the trash is wasteful."