July 4, 2014

NEW FEDERAL SCHOOL-LUNCH RULES SO ONEROUS THAT school systems are saving money by opting out of the program.

Some district officials are saying they’re all for healthy food, but they have to sell enough hot lunches to break even on their program — and that won’t work if the kids shun the food. They also are a little prickly about federal officials telling them what to do.

“We believe that proper food nutrition and meal portion guidelines are best decided at a local level,” said Rick Petfalski, School Board president for the Muskego-Norway School District.

Opting out of the program means Muskego-Norway will no longer receive federal money for its meals, but it also means the district is free to serve whatever it wants.

Already losing money because fewer kids were buying the meals, the district will now have to cover the cost of free and reduced lunches on its own. It will do this partly by spending less on foods that students don’t eat and — they believe — increasing the number of kids buying lunches by providing tastier meals.

Under the school lunch program regulations, Petfalski said, the district’s food service was projected to be headed toward a $54,000 deficit. By opting out — and presumably selling more food — he expects about a $7,100 surplus.

I suspect that more federal programs are like that than people realize.