Should they stay or should they go? That's the question school officials are debating in the Prior Lake-Savage district amid complaints from Prior Lake High School students and parents that new federal school lunch guidelines don't provide enough calories to meet active students' needs.
Janeen Peterson, the district's director of food services, gave a presentation of the school's options at a recent school board meeting, with a board decision expected in April or May.
One solution is to leave the National School Lunch Program, which would also mean losing the federal funding attached to participation. The school currently receives about $992 per day in reimbursement from state and federal sources, including $810 for students qualifying for free and reduced lunches.
The district could then implement a two-year pilot program, said district spokeswoman Kristi Mussman.
Finances are one important consideration, but the district will lose money whether it remains a part of the program or not, Mussman said.
"In fact, our district would likely lost more money by staying on the federal program due to the new guidelines that significantly limit portion sizes," Mussman said.
Those guidelines are a part of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, federal legislation passed in 2010. This year, the government added to previous guidelines, restricting the total calories, fat and sodium content of foods served for lunch, including in a la carte lines. There is also an emphasis on whole grains and a requirement to take one fruit or vegetable.
"What it will really come down to is what students, parents and staff would like to see in a lunch program at PLHS," Mussman said.
The district will be sending out a survey in late March to determine what students, parents and staff want.
Last fall, Wayzata High School also opted out of the federal program, citing similar concerns with portion size, calorie content and overall satisfaction.