In another tale providing more potential truth that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, a Michelle Obama healthy lunch program has been given the boot from a Montana high school after driving too many kids away from the Michelle Obama-inspired school cafeteria to seek food elsewhere.
Even though getting rid of the Michelle Obama healthy lunch program also means losing $117,000 in federal money for Bozeman High, according to district officials, the decision is receiving wide spread accolades while also financially reinvigorating the slumping school food services, reports the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.
In a split 5-3 decision, the Bozeman district board voted in July to end the First Lady’s lunch program in an effort to stem the tide of students receding out of the cafeteria and flooding nearby fast food restaurants instead.
And so far, getting rid of the Michelle Obama lunch program has helped to bring back the hungry wayward kids, students returning to the cafeteria and spending their dollars on campus instead of at the local fast food joints.
“We’re off to a good start,” announced Bob Burrows, who oversees school lunches in the district, referring to food sales and speaking to the School Board of Trustees on Monday night. “Our traffic is way up (with) over 1,000 (customers a day) regularly. (Last year), that wasn’t the case.”
While the Michelle Obama lunch program was designed to set limits on how much fat, salt, and other unhealthy calories would be in student lunches, thereby cutting down the potential for childhood obesity, the program also set unintended limits on the number of dollars coming into the financially self-sustaining cafeteria.
Food service throughout the district is reportedly required to support itself so it doesn’t bleed needed funds from the classrooms. Last year, with the Michelle Obama healthy lunch program making the high school cafeteria look like it was in the middle of a perpetual fire drill, an original estimate of $35,000 was thought lost, though more recent estimates put the loss at more around $16,000, according to deputy superintendent, Steve Johnson.
A highlight for the resurgent district food services, since dropping the Michelle Obama healthy lunch program, particularly at the high school, is “extra food” sales, that is, sales of items that the U.S. government wouldn’t consider a whole meal. With students returning to the cafeteria in the post-Obama healthy lunch era, extra food sales for September jumped 48 percent, from $37,000 last year to $54,000 this year.
Meanwhile, sales of government recognized “complete meals,” such as those in the Michelle Obama healthy lunch program, are down from two years ago throughout the entire district of Bozeman’s 11 schools, the elementary and middle schools of which are still in Michelle Obama’s lunch program.
Regardless, the rise in extra food sales is great news for the district’s food services, not only off-setting the losses suffered from implementing the Michelle Obama program, but also because Bozeman school food services just spent $4.5 million on upgrading and expanding their facilities. So, though some in the district were against dropping the Obama lunch program, this was another reason the majority saw the move as necessary to stop the school from losing money.
Bozeman High School’s food service manager, Alison Beckman, also pointed out that Bozeman high students are going to make their own decisions on what they’re going to eat, so trying to force a dietary regiment on them, like the Michelle Obama healthy lunch program, was destined to backfire.
“They’re young adults. At this age you’re not going to tell them what to eat. All the new rules and mandates have done is push students off campus to the fast food restaurants.”
At the same time, the food the cafeteria is serving since the Obama lunch program got jettisoned isn’t all unhealthy junk food. Over half the food being served is made from scratch on site in the kitchens and uses local vendors for ingredients instead of using pre-packaged goods, reports the Daily Mail.
In the end, you can lead a kid to what you believe are healthy food choices, such as the Michelle Obama healthy lunch program, but apparently during a long day of school, if that kid sees a McDonalds or pizza place over the school fence, that’s probably where they’re going to eat.
[Images by Sean Gallup, Alex Wong, and Joe Raedle, Getty Images]