Each first lady typically takes on a cause that they will advocate for throughout their time in the White House. Nancy Reagan fought against drugs, Hillary Clinton notoriously had health care, Laura Bush advocated for literacy. Michelle Obama chose to fight childhood obesity and one of the ways that she did this was to implement federal food regulations in schools that were much stricter than before. And she just got some news about her school lunch program that will have her fuming.
One school in Pennsylvania dropped Michelle Obama’s lunch edict and the response is not too surprising. Penn-Trafford High School officials removed the school from the National School Lunch Program, after struggling with compliance for years. The regulations were so onerous that cafeteria revenues went down and student participation in school lunches plummeted.
“We’ve lost, to date, about $40,000 worth of reimbursement, but our sales are up about $50,000 over last year,” business district manager Brett Lago said. What caused the sales to go up? Leaving the federal lunch program, which allowed them to escape Michelle Obama’s restrictions on things like calories, fat, sugar, salt. It meant losing federal funding, but apparently, that decision is paying off already.
“Participation has gone from about 25 percent to 45 percent, and we’re still providing free lunches to all those students who would have been eligible under the school lunch program,” Lago added. The school’s cafeteria workers previously had to give children only a few restrictive choices. Now, they have a deli and a panini station, a grill, a main course station and other options. So far, students are celebrating the changes.
“You get to choose what you want instead of being sort of funneled in and only having one choice,” junior Chase Zavarella said. “I think everyone is happier with the new selection.” Another student, senior Brianna Lander, agreed. “The trash cans were always full, sometimes overflowing,” she said. “You don’t see that now. People would go up to the snack line and get random junk food, where now you can get an actual meal and eat it.”
It was also pointed out that the federal standards made no allowances for the different body types and dietary needs among the student body. “[Y]ou can’t say a 300-pound football player and a 90-pound cheerleader have the same (dietary) needs on a daily basis,” Lago said.
Over 500 schools have opted out of the National School Lunch Program since Michelle Obama got involved. There was an estimated $1 billion in food waste, as students refused to eat the less-appetizing food.
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