In Bozeman, Montana, the local School Board voted to leave the National School Lunch Program because its nutrition rules are far too strict. The meals may be designed to fight the so-called “national obesity epidemic,” but they are not working well for the school. The school’s food program lost $35,000 last year, even though the program is supposed to be self-supporting.
School Board trustees agreed to adopt Superintendent Rob Watson’s recommendation to suspend the high school’s participation in the national lunch program. Bozeman High’s dropping out will mean losing a $117,000 federal subsidy, but the school will not lose thousands of dollars every year as a result of overbearing government regulations. The school’s food service director, Bob Burrows, has promised that they will continue to provide “healthy, wholesome meals” for the students, and that they can actually do more with local foods under more flexible food rules. Burrows said the “one-size-fits-all” federal limit of 850 calories per meal was too low for active kids such as athletes. Also, its limits on salt make it tough to offer most meals with meat.
Last year, white bread, Gatorade, tater tots, goldfish crackers, and even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were banned from the menu, and cookies were shrunk in size. Next year, cocoa and other snacks will be off limits under the National School Lunch Program. With Bozeman High’s long tradition of an open campus at lunchtime, that means more students could eat at nearby fast-food restaurants and grocery stores. By choosing to reject the National School Lunch Program, Bozeman’s School Board has proven that increased government interference in our local schools absolutely does not give our children what they need. Individual school boards and parents should be deciding what our children are to be served in public school cafeterias.
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