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Wisconsin School District Opts Out Of Federal Lunch Program

Green Lake Schools Say Students Throw Away Fruit, Less-Salty Foods

DC Central Kitchen (CC-BY)

A study in the journal Childhood Obesity says changes in the National School Lunch Program have led to more fruit being eaten and less total waste. But at least one Wisconsin school district disagrees.

Students eating lunch at Green Lake School District in southcentral Wisconsin generally get fresh fruit. Food Service Director Deb Smith said the older students like it but elementary-aged students, not so much.

And she said there have been complaints about food having less salt and fat, one of the required changes under the federal school lunch program.

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“Sometimes they would come through and tell us, ‘You know, I have no intention of eating this.’ And we would have say, ‘I know, but it has to be on your tray.’ And it would never get touched,” Smith said.

So, as of March 1, the district dropped out of the federally-funded program. Ever since, Smith said, less food goes in the garbage.

“Oh, its incredible. It’s absolutely incredible. The trays are coming back empty!” she said.

Smith said portion size is controlled but isn’t as strict as the federal rules. The district is trying its own menu through the end of the year, keeping track of lunch sales and waste. It may return to the National School Lunch Program, depending on what students like and what the district can afford to serve without the help of federal money.