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Sorry, Mrs. Obama: Area school ditching federal lunch program

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WEST HEMPFIELD TWP., Lancaster County (WPMT) — Fat free milk and whole grain Rice Krispies Treats may soon be a thing of the past at Hempfield High School.

The school district voted at a recent board meeting to do away with the federally-suggested Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act at the end of the school year. The Act includes government guidelines which were implemented in 2010 as a way to make school lunches healthier. Schools get reimbursed by the government for their lunches sold, but not for food thrown away.

Under the Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act, schools can only sell fat-free milk, foods with whole grains and no white flour, fruits and vegetables with every meal, and specific types of lettuce, amongst a litany of other guidelines. Lunches are healthier, but also much more expensive, says Hempfield School District Food Services Director Brian Rathgeb.

Rathgeb estimates Hempfield School District has lost $120,000 on approximately 50,000 wasted meals since the act was implemented in 2010. In 2014-15 alone, the school district has spent $500 on whole grain products.

Once Hempfield leaves the federal program, it will no longer receive reimbursements from the government for its school lunches. It hopes to make up in lost government money with more students buying school lunches. Hempfield High School plans to add more variety to its menu, to go with the options currently offered.

Hempfield will begin with a one-year test pilot, only the high school participating. Manheim Central and Manheim Township took their school lunches off the federal program in 2014.  Manheim Central says their decision has been a financial success, and students are happier with the school lunch choices. Ultimately, that is Henpfield's goal.