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National School Lunch Dropout Rate is Small, USDA Reports

Schools are dropping out of the National School Lunch Program over the new nutrition standards, but not all that many, USDA reports.

The federal subsidized lunch program has lost 524 schools out of about 100,000 that were enlisted before the standards changed, and only 90 said they were leaving specifically because of the new meal plan requirements. Most don’t give a reason when they leave the program, and they don’t have to.

While losing one-half percent of its schools, USDA say 80 percent have met the requirements for healthier menu offerings that went into effect at the start of the 2012-13 school year. There were plenty of complaints, mostly about food waste and calorie reductions being imposed on active students.

The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation also came out with a report stating that 94 percent of the schools will meet the updated nutrition standards in the 2013-14 school year, but many schools need updated equipment to handle the changes properly. The nonprofits said more fruits and vegetables mean more chopping and slicing and that calls for the right equipment.

Congress appropriated $10 million for fiscal year 2013 for new and better food service equipment purchases.

Ironically, it appears that no public schools in Midwestern states such as Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas dropped the national school lunch program even though students in those states were among the most vocal opponents of the changes. The highest dropout rates – about 2 percent – came from Hawaii and Guam.

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