Students in Pennsylvania Rejoice After School Drops Federal Lunch Regulations

In previous years when they headed to lunch, Penn-Trafford High School students had to wait in longer lines for fewer choices, and the district’s food-service program was losing money.

This year, administrators chose to have the high school opt out of the National School Lunch Program, and they are on pace to be back in the black, budget-wise.

“We’ve lost, to date, about $40,000 worth of reimbursement, but our sales are up about $50,000 over last year,” district Business Manager Brett Lago said.

Lunch prices range from $3.20 to $4.50.

“The participation has gone from about 25 to 45 percent, and we’re still providing free lunches to all those students who would have been eligible under the school lunch program,” Lago said.

National School Lunch Program guidelines limit what school cafeterias are able to serve in terms of calorie and sodium limits and also mandated that students be served certain items.

In the past, a lot of those items — fruits and vegetables in particular — ended up in the garbage.

“The trash cans were always full, sometimes overflowing,” said senior Brianna Lander, 18, of Harrison City. “You don’t see that now. People would go up to the snack line and get random junk food, where now you can get an actual meal and eat it.”

After a complete remodel, the high school cafeteria is set up like a food court, with a deli and panini station, a grill, a main course counter, and pizza and a la carte stations.

“You get to choose what you want instead of being sort of funneled in and only having one choice,” said junior Chase Zavarella, 17, of Penn Township. “I think everyone is happier with the new selection.”

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