Douglas County opts out of NSLP

The district’s nine high schools are no longer on the federal meals program following a potential $3 million loss in sales due to Smart Snacks rules.

Published in FSD K-12 Spotlight

Faced with a potential $3 million loss in a la carte sales, Douglas County School District, in Colorado, has said no thank you to the USDA’s National School Lunch Program (NSLP).

Only 6% of Douglas County students qualify for free or reduced priced lunches. The district also decided in 2009 to open up its high schools so students could leave campus to get lunch. Those two factors meant Brent Craig, director of nutrition services for Douglas County, was facing an uphill battle for participation at the high schools.

In the face of those challenges, Craig’s team was making headway. They developed a create-you-own burrito concept and found success serving kids items they would actually purchase that were at the same time healthy. But the challenge was, the students were not purchasing reimbursable meals. Instead, Craig has relied almost exclusively on a la carte sales at his high schools. And those sales are under attack by new federal rules under Smart Snacks.

“When the first round of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act came out, we were one of the first ones to comply because we had already been doing [these healthy initiatives],” Craig recalls. “It really wasn’t a big deal for us. We were cruising right along.”

That is, until Smart Snacks came along. Craig figured out that in order to meet Smart Snacks guidelines he would have to alter or eliminate many of the a la carte offerings his high schoolers were fond of. “We developed this great burrito and we’ve been really successful with that,” he says. “But when they threw out these Smart Snacks, you’d have to have this really tiny burrito that kids would laugh at you and say, ‘that won’t fill me up.’”

Craig’s high schools also have Subway franchises, which are popular with students. But under Smart Snacks, the only option Craig could serve was a six-inch Veggie Delight with no dressing or toppings.

Through a financial analysis, Craig determined that if he changed his a la carte menu mix to meet Smart Snacks, he would lose $3 million in sales. Instead, Craig decided to drop his nine high schools from the National School Lunch Program.

“We couldn’t afford to lose $3 million in our nine high schools,” Craig says of the decision. “It wasn’t about trying to avoid fundraisers or competitive foods. It’s really about being able to run a viable program, because the district was not going to be able to support nutrition services by taking funds out of the classroom.”

But Craig doesn’t want to be seen as a “rebel.” He tried to keep the decision to drop out of the NSLP quiet, but local media outlets quickly picked up on the story.

“We’re about a balanced approach,” Craig says. “We’re very committed to healthy foods. But we’re also committed to making sure what we serve is what kids will eat. Those Smart Snacks rules are unrealistic. I support USDA and I think they are on the right track. I just think they fell off the cliff when it comes to Smart Snacks. If USDA can tweak some things on the calories and sodium, then we’ll go right back on the program. As it sits right now, it’s a financial disaster if I try to meet Smart Snacks regulations and meet the kids’ needs in the high schools.”
 

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion
autumn leaves

Because I’m writing this letter in the middle of August, it’s a bit tough to imagine the fall season—crunchy leaves, cooler air and the impending sense of dread over whether this will finally be the winter when I freeze to the sidewalk.

But autumn also brings some of my favorite foods: stews, soups, squashes and apples fresh from the tree. Meanwhile, at Greenville County Schools in South Carolina, K-12 diners are getting amped up about a plethora of DIY options, including a build-your-own chicken and waffles bar, says Director of Food and Nutrition Services Joe Urban. (Where was...

Managing Your Business
teamwork pack

As summer begins to fade and vacation season comes to a close, it’s time to start thinking about revitalizing staffers’ connections to one another . It’s certainly no secret in the Winsight offices that I’m a bit of a social butterfly, which, in turn, means I’m a rockstar at team building. Can you spot the inter-office activity I haven’t organized from the list below?

• Breakfast Sandwich Fridays: Co-workers rotate responsibility of providing ingredients for customizable sandwiches. Mimosas may have been involved. • “Sound of Music” Soundtrack Singalong Thursdays. The majority of...

Industry News & Opinion
k-12

The School Nutrition Foundation —the School Nutrition Association’s philanthropic sibling—and Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign have partnered to launch an initiative called Schools as Nutrition Hubs.

“No Kid Hungry really sees schools as a critical place in the fight against childhood hunger,” says Laura Hatch, director of national partnerships for No Kid Hungry. “Schools are really a no-brainer because they have the infrastructure, they have the experience, it’s a trusted place for families. And being able to maximize their programs and maximize the federal...

Ideas and Innovation
walk-in cooler

The walk-in cooler can serve as a gathering place for more than just produce. When temperatures rise, staff at Empire State South restaurant in Atlanta host meetings in the walk-in and make occasional trips to hang out throughout the day to beat the back-of-house heat.

FSD Resources