Fort Thomas Schools reject federal lunch program

Published: Jul. 29, 2014 at 2:17 AM EDT
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(FOX19 File)
(FOX19 File)

FORT THOMAS, KY (FOX19) - The Fort Thomas Independent School District is opting out of the criteria set forth in the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

Just for participating in the program, schools receive more than $200,000 a year. But in Fort Thomas, after seeing how it's gone over the last few years, the district feels it's worth the sacrifice to move forward on their own.

"We're not going to force kids to take things they don't want," said Superintendent Gene Kirchner.

More than 90% of our nation's schools are on board with the national school lunch program. The program dictates lower calories and more whole grain and vegetable options in the cafeteria.

"Right now our program is headed in the wrong direction, and we feel like we've lost control," said Kirchner.

Superintendent Kirchner says as a district, they're down about 166 meals per day since 2010, and even those participating are wasteful.

"We're watching kids after they go past the cash register, throw away what they were forced to take in the lunch line, and that's just sad," said Kirchner.

"It wasn't the best food, I mean it could be better," said Emily Uchtmann.

Even the students say the food isn't exactly tasty and often times the portions are too small. These soon to be freshman say they're thrilled about having more freedom during lunch.

"I'm excited because that means I don't have to go off campus for lunch as much," said student Emily Uchtmann.

Is it worth missing out on all this extra lunch money?

Kirchner acknowledges it is a concern because annually they'll have to make up around  $260,000 to $270,000 a year.
"We feel like we can make up that cost by increasing the quality and increasing participation. It's sort of like a business model if you will,"  said Kirchner.
"If they're doing away with it, it must be worth it to them," said parent June Doyle.

Kirchner says they'll continue to offer free and reduced lunches for those who qualify and more variety and quantity as well, but he stresses this isn't a money making venture, it's all about serving the kids.

"We can provide healthy, nutritious choices for our students without those regulations," said Kirchner.

Fort Thomas schools will re-evaluate their involvement with the program in 2015. They would consider opting back into the program if it doesn't make fiscal sense after this school year.

According to researchers at Cornell and BYU, after the launch of the program kids started throwing away more than $3.5 million worth of food every day. The School Nutrition Association reports that only about one percent of schools dropped out of the program last year.

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