Reporting Chuck Schechner
FORT WORTH (KRLD) – At least one North Texas school district has turned up its nose at the new federal lunch program. Many schools report kids refused to eat the healthier meals that are supposed to be packed with whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Carroll Independent School District has dropped out for a year. Nutrition Services Director Mary Brunig says the requirements are too restrictive. “You have to follow exactly what is in this meal pattern, if you are the national school lunch program.”
Brunig says as a result, a lot of food wound up in the trash.
“With the new program in place, the new meal pattern, our participation started to drop. And the other thing was there was food waste. Children were not eating the food,” she said. “If the children aren’t eating the food, there’s no nutrition.”
Brunig says the district plans to create its own healthy meals without federal restrictions.
“We do have an executive chef on staff here and when you’re limited as far as a meal pattern it does stifle the creativity of what we can offer these kids on menus.”
Other districts with high numbers of students who get free and discounted lunches can’t afford to quit because they will lose federal cash reimbursements.
Carroll isn’t the only school district in the metroplex making changes. CBS 11 News reached out to districts across North Texas too see if they are making changes to their lunch programs.
- A spokesperson with the Allen Independent School District said, “The menu has changed but it always is changing.” The district continues to participate in the healthier new federal lunch program, which the district said is doing better since the regulations on a maximum of grains and proteins was lifted this year.
- Birdville ISD leaders said their meals “meet or exceed nutrition standards set by the state and federal government.” According to the Birdville spokesperson, the district offers a variety of fruit and vegetable sides daily, as well as food options to satisfy a variety of tastes.
- The Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD is still participating in the federal program. Saying that they “believe that many of the regulations are healthier,” a district spokesperson also noted that they have not seen a decrease in the number of students eating lunch in the cafeteria.
- The Denton Independent School District is on board with the government plan and said will “continue with the federal lunch and breakfast program.”
- Officials with the Dallas Independent School District said while they are participating in the federal program their move, several years ago, toward healthier menus that included whole grains and more fresh fruit meant “the change in new USDA Regulations did not impact on our meal participation or revenues this past year.”
- Duncanville ISD officials said student taste tests were instrumental for them. The district hasn’t seen a change in the number of meals sold. Part of their success is attributed to their nutrition department conducting student taste tests of meals that fit the new federal guidelines.
- The Grand Prairie ISD is sticking with the federal plan. A spokesperson told CBS 11, “We aren’t changing our lunch menu and it appears our food service fund balance is fine.”
- The menu in the Hurst-Euless-Bedford Independent School District is changing as they participate in the federal program. But officials there say they continually experiment with “compliant yet salable options.” The district has made adjustments to offset any dips in revenue and so far has not loss money since implementing the new program.
- Lewisville ISD schools “continue to participate in the National School Lunch Program.” The district said the program is financially sound and should continue to be since they regularly make menu changes to enhance meal options.
- The Mansfield ISD started gradually implementing healthier meals several years ago. Since that was the case a spokesperson said, “We have not made any menu changes for this school year with regards to the healthier meals.” To date the number of students eating on campus hasn’t changed drastically and has had little financial impact.
- A spokesperson with the Mesquite ISD said, “We have changed the menu to meet the requirements, but have not noticed much change in the number of meals served.” Their participation in healthier new federal lunch program continues.
- The Midlothian ISD is also on board with the feds and has not dropped out of the lunch program. A spokesperson said, “Last year we made a few changes to comply with the federal guidelines.”
- Since the Northwest Independent School District was already exceeding the requirements set by the USDA and Texas Department of Agriculture no changes were required to comply with the federal program. A spokesperson said, “No, we have not changed our lunch menu because our students are already being provided healthier meals.”
- A spokesperson with the Richardson ISD said students there probably didn’t even know that new regulations were in place, because the district “had already implemented healthier lunch choices and ingredients.” Richardson has had no negative financial repercussions because of the stricter federal regulations.
- The Southlake-Carroll Independent School District has suspended the federal lunch program all together. Officials there said they did it to offer “more flexibility on healthy choices that kids will eat.”
- Terrell ISD officials said they are “complying with federal guidelines and revenue is actually up.” The district said their success is due in part to the creativity of the food service director, who paired popular vegetables with not so popular veggies to make sure students are eating healthy.
- Director of Child Nutrition Jerolyn Goodman said, “Weatherford ISD is sticking with the [federal] program.” But Goodman went on to explain that fiscally Weatherford couldn’t afford not to. “Districts with high numbers of students who get free and discounted lunches can’t afford to quit because they would lose the program’s cash reimbursements.”
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