Enrollment In National School Lunch Program Down By More Than 1 Million

Since Michelle Obama began her war on lunch the number of students participating in the National School Lunch Program is down by more than a million students. My kids were never enrolled in any program, but they used to buy lunch a couple of days per week. Not anymore, I could count on one hand the number of times both kids combined have bought lunch in the past year, and then it was only because they forgot to bring lunch from home.

Many districts are now dropping the program, and House Republicans are trying to make it easier for schools to opt out. Not only do kids hate the new lunches, being compliant has increased the cost for districts with already strained budgets.

But Agriculture Department statistics show the number of school children in the National School Lunch Program dropped from 31.8 million in 2011 to 30.7 million in 2013.

School boards are asking Congress to allow schools to opt out. Some schools are raiding their teaching budgets to cover the costs of mounds of wasted fruits and vegetables, Lucy Gettman of the National School Boards Association said.

“Every school is probably impacted a little bit differently … there isn’t comprehensive data available,” she said. She noted that one school district in Alaska reported having to transfer $135,000 from its education budget to meet the new requirements — and that the incident was far from unique.

Diane Pratt-Heavner of the School Nutrition Association, which represents nonprofit lunch providers in the National School Lunch program, said data show 1,445 schools have dropped out of the program since the standards went into effect as costs mount.

Lawmakers acted this week. A House spending bill approved by a subcommittee on Tuesday would force the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to give a temporary waiver to school lunch programs that can show they were operating at a net loss for the last six months. That provision is supported by the National School Boards Association, as well as the School Nutrition Association. They also support other efforts, including a bill by Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) to stop imposition of more stringent standards coming down the pike. (Read More)