Virginia district's lunches decline 30% since implementing new meal guidelines

Botetourt County Public Schools served almost 200,000 fewer meals in 2013-2014 than in 2010-2011.

ROANOKE, Va.—At the July School Board meeting Superintendent Dr. Tony Brads delivered the bad news on the School Nutrition Program, a once thriving entity. The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act implemented in 2010-11 had an unintended result. Over the next three years, The Botetourt County School Nutrition served less meals in 2013-14 than it did in 1994-95 and almost two hundred thousand meals less than it did in 2010-11. Meal sales are at the lowest in 20 years.

In 2011-12 the school division’ cafeterias sold 619,476 meals. In 2013-14, they sold 423, 921 meals. The numbers reflect s a drop of about 32.4 per cent in three years. In any business, that would be significant.

Botetourt County Schools did not return money to the county for the CIP fund for the first time in years. The plummet in cafeteria food sales was part of the reason. Though the School Nutrition Budget is a stand-alone budget, but debits must equal credits. The cafeterias could not meet the budget in sales this past school year. Fewer full time workers and different expectations begin the 2014-15 budget and school year.

Chris Morris who heads up the School Nutrition program is pragmatic about what happened. “The new food guidelines simply do not appeal to the students in this area.” Vegetables like corn and green beans have been bumped by kale, carrots, sweet potatoes and other vegetables that most kids avoid. “We have found once the elementary student leaves us, they don’t come back,” she explained. The new offerings are more expensive to  purchase and the county nutrition program uses a three division system to purchase foods to make costs as low as possible.

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