Championed by First Lady Michelle Obama and passed in 2010, The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was designed to provide more nutritious school meals for public school children. In North Carolina, this well-intentioned piece of legislation has been a catastrophe, sort of like New Coke.
This week, the N.C. State Board of Education will hear an overview of new federal rules and regulations for school nutrition programs. The following is a summary of North Carolina’s implementation of the law provided by N.C. Department of Public Instruction staff:
- Preliminary projections indicate an increase in food and labor costs by $0.25 for lunch and $0.32 for breakfast by 2015;
- food/labor costs increased between $0.10 – $0.16 per lunch served in 2012 – 2013;
- food waste increased (multiple reasons – student taste preferences, too little time to eat);
- student participation declined by 3% in the paid meal category; overall state-wide participation declined from 62% – 58%;
- whole grains for all foods have not been well-accepted by many students;
- storage space (frozen, chilled, dry) for additional fruits and vegetables is limited;
- continuing education requirements for school nutrition personnel increased significantly; and
- the scope, complexity and intricacy of school nutrition operations increased exponentially.
Just to summarize, The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act raised costs, increased waste, discouraged participation, and made it more difficult for food service employees to do their job.
Way to go feds!
On the other hand, the legislation may actually achieve its goal in a perverse way. Public school children may become healthier as they eat less food, that is, throw away many of the calories provided on their tray. And those who opt out of the school lunch program may bring healthier lunches from home.