New school meal pattern gets blame for Mass. districts' money loss

One district projects a $58,000 deficit for this school year.

May 20—Students at Dedham (Mass.) Public Schools aren't fans of the new whole-grain chocolate chip cookies served in the cafeteria, and cookies are just the tip of the iceberg. Though officials say that students will eventually adjust to their new choices, school budgets have taken a hit because of lost revenue from snack items such as cookies and added expenses resulting from the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which regulates school lunches.

The state and federal laws took effect last fall, and officials are projecting a $58,000 deficit for the Dedham food service department this school year. Districts across the Commonwealth are feeling the effects. Dedham Food Service Director Jeanne Johnson put together a list of 25 nearby districts, including Canton, Needham, Norwood, and Stoughton, that also are losing money. Districts that have been the most successful with the new lunch regulations started early, according to Kathleen Millett, executive director of the Office of Nutrition, Health, and Safety in the state education department.

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