HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Federal school lunch regulations have changed what is served in Horry County school cafeterias; and therefore, has changed how many students are buying lunch. However, district representatives said it wouldn't be possible to get rid of the federal funding in favor of not being regulated.
"I would rather not take the money and do whatever we're supposed to do, you just can't afford that," said Joe DeFeo, chairman of the Horry County School Board.
Board member Janice Morreale asked the district how much it would cost to fund it without federal money after hearing complaints from parents about the changes.
Horry County Schools Food Services Director Laura Farmer said the district receives 64 percent, or $14 million of its lunch program revenue from the federal government.
"There's nowhere else to raise funding except to raise taxes and you're talking about a large millage increase with all the other financial situations we have, I don't think it'll ever be an option," DeFeo said.
School cafeterias have had to start monitoring calories, sodium, whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables that go on every student's lunch tray.
The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act regulations have meant childhood favorites have had to change, such as cheeseburgers becoming hamburgers to meet sodium guidelines. Those hamburgers will then be served with broccoli instead of french fries due to calorie restrictions.
"That's been our challenge is to give the students what they would like, still remain healthy, increase fruits and vegetables, but yet still offer them something that are their favorites," Farmer said.
School lunch participation is down and food waste is up, Farmer said.
Farmer will be going to a national conference March 1-4 to ask for relaxed regulations that will make it more feasible for cafeterias to feed their students.
The school district is also asking for more funding, $.37 per child, to make up for the cost of forcing every child to put a serving of fruit or vegetables on his or her tray, per the regulations.
Farmer said the district has not yet decided whether it will raise lunch prices for the 2015-2016 school year.