Students, Faculty Rejoice as PA School Drops Federally-Regulated School Lunch Program

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A Pennsylvania high school is no longer bound by federal food regulations after the district decided to do away with the National School Lunch Program.

Penn-Trafford High School had been struggling to comply with federal regulations as cafeteria revenues and student lunch participation took a dive, the Tribune-Review reported.

The school’s lunch program is now free from restrictions on calories, fat, sugar, salt, and other elements, but lost federal funding to help cover free and reduced-priced lunches for some students. However, district business manager Brett Lago said the district has still been able to provide free and reduced-price lunches to students eligible for the school lunch program.

“We’ve lost, to date, about $40,000 worth of reimbursement, but our sales are up about $50,000 over last year,” he said. “Participation has gone from about 25 percent to 45 percent, and we’re still providing free lunches to all those students who would have been eligible under the school lunch program.”

The decision to ditch the federal regulations allowed the district to redesign the cafeteria to provide more options to students. The new cafeteria includes a deli and panini station, grill, main course counter, and other stations.

“You get to choose what you want instead of being sort of funneled in and only having one choice,” junior Chase Zavarella said. “I think everyone is happier with the new selection.”

Senior Brianna Lander said the school’s trash cans had produced less waste as a result of the changes because students would often throw out the fruit or vegetable they were required to take along with their lunches in the old program.

“The trash cans were always full, sometimes overflowing,” Lander said. “You don’t see that now. People would go up to the snack line and get random junk food, where now you can get an actual meal and eat it.”

Lago said the old program also required one-size fits all portions that didn’t account for different student body types and dietary needs.

Penn-Trafford High School is one of more than 500 schools that have dropped out of the NSLP after the Healthy Hunger-Free Act championed by former first lady Michelle Obama imposed strict regulations on nutrition guidelines, EAG News reported.

There has also been an effort at the federal level to repeal the school lunch rules.

The House Freedom Caucus has called on the Trump administration to repeal the regulations during Trump’s first 100 days, and the School Nutrition Association has called for more “flexibility” in meal planning in their legislative agenda, the Quad-City Times reported.