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Suburban School District Drops Out Of Federal Lunch Program

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Susanna Song Susanna Song
Susanna Song serves as a general assignment reporter for CBS 2...
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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (CBS) – It might seem like a no-brainer to give kids healthier lunch options, but one suburban school district wants to keep their pizza and fries, because they don’t think students will buy the healthier menu.

Township High School District 214, the state’s second largest high school district with 12,000 students, has dropped out of the National School Lunch Program.

A district spokesperson said the new school lunch guidelines are too restrictive; for example, not allowing kids to buy hard-boiled eggs or certain yogurts. School officials also have noted the new guidelines consider hummus to be too high in fat, and pretzels to be too high in salt; non-fat milk containers larger than 12 ounces could not be sold either.

Pulling out of the federal lunch program would mean also giving up $900,000 in federal aid, but the district fears it might not get that money anyway, as they’d only receive the aid if students purchase the healthy food required by the new guidelines, and officials believe kids would simply choose to go off-campus to get food instead.

The District 214 board voted Thursday night to drop out of the federal program.

The strict Smart Snacks in Schools guidelines requires schools to sell only snacks that have fewer than 200 calories and no more than 230 milligrams of sodium. Snacks need to be either rich in whole grains, or mostly made of fruits or vegetables.

The Chicago Tribune reports most of District 214’s food revenue comes from its a la carte menu, which includes pizza, fries, and Subway sandwiches; and generates $2.2 million in revenue. Vending machines add another $543,000.

The new federal guidelines take affect July 1. Thousands of schools have decided to stay on the federal school lunch program and make the necessary changes to their vending machines and lunchroom menus.

A spokesperson said if the District 214 – which serves the suburbs of Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Des Plaines, Elk Grove Village, Mount Prospect, Prospect Heights, Rolling Meadows, and Wheeling – drops out of the federal school lunch program, officials would create a new menu with 10 to 12 healthy lunch options. Officials believe they can in crease profits by 10 percent if they come up with a healthy menu their own way.

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