Small School Districts Could Struggle To Buy Healthier Food

The new federal guidelines call for more fruits and vegetables in school meals, and require schools only offer fat-free or low-fat milk.

Lunchboxes

Photo: Ben Skirvin/StateImpact Indiana

Paying for healthier school lunch options could be harder for smaller, more rural school corporations.

Officials in some South-Central Indiana school districts say new federal standards for school meals will now offer children healthier food choices. But they add some schools could have a hard time paying for the changes.

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation spokesperson Nancy Millspaugh says the district has already been working to make school meals healthier. Millspaugh says BCSC offsets the cost of obtaining healthier food for the children by using locally grown produce in a farm-to-school program. But she says changing the content of school meals could be a financial burden for some school districts.

“While some schools have already gone ahead and made some proactive changes—I feel that our corporation is one of those—many are still trying to figure out how they can make some of these changes under the tighter budgets,” Millspaugh says.

Brown County Schools’ spokesperson Mari Bolin says smaller school districts will have a harder time adhering to the new federal regulations.

“Cost drives a lot of it,” Bolin says. “If you just don’t have the money and you’re a small district, you don’t have the money to buy the extra fruits and vegetables—then, it’s going to be tough until someone tells you, you have to do it.”

The Obama administration is backing the new guidelines as part of a push to prevent childhood obesity. The new school meal standards are due to take effect this year.

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