New York state schools feel pinch of new lunch rules

School meal participation in Broome-Tioga BOCES is up, but balancing budgets to meet federal nutrition requirements is a constant struggle.

NEW YORK—Fewer cookies and soda. More vegetables and whole grains.

Federal regulations have ensured schools across the country can provide healthier foods for their students, even those who can’t afford fresh produce at home.

Many of those districts, including those in the Southern Tier, follow those nutrition rules, but find that balancing budgets to meet those regulations is a constant struggle.

The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 required schools to adopt certain guidelines — dictating serving sizes of fruit, whole grains and protein, as well as limited sodium and saturated fat levels — if they were to be reimbursed for national lunch or breakfast programs. Participation in the program dropped both locally and nationally in the 2012-13 school year, the first in which the new guidelines were implemented.

Mark Bordeau, Broome-Tioga BOCES’ senior director of food services, which serves 14 local school districts, said there’s an uptick in students buying school lunches for the coming school year. In the 2012-13 school year, Bordeau said participation in the local meal programs dropped between 3 to 5 percent.

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