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It’s National School Lunch Week: school leaders say yes to good nutrition, no to increased costs and waste!

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has issued a press release calling for flexibility and relief from the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to address the unintended consequences of onerous requirements for federal school meal programs in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act with the start of National School Lunch Week on Oct.13.

“As we celebrate National School Lunch Week, we must address the visible realities of complying with school nutrition requirements,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “Our poll shows that school leaders are in favor of good nutrition for children but concerned with the unintended consequences of the current federal regulations. Trays of uneaten cafeteria food thrown in the trash, hungry kids, and struggling school food-service programs are the practical realities many school districts and students face.”

NSBA’s recent survey of school leaders shows that since that law went into effect in 2010, 83.7 percent of school districts saw an increase in plate waste, 81.8 percent had an increase in cost, and 76.5 percent saw a decrease in participation by students. 

To address the issues, 75 percent of school leaders encourage an increase in federal funding for school districts to comply with the new standards and 60.3 percent support additional flexibility for school districts to improve their ability to provide good nutrition without harm to instruction, personnel, and other school district operations.  

NSBA’s poll reveals the alarming choices faced by school districts in response to these challenges. Increasing the price of unsubsidized meals, dipping into reserves and other school district funds, delaying investments in equipment, facilities, and other necessities, and reducing staff and hours, are just a few of the alternatives school districts have had to do.  

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