A school cafeteria worker prepares small sandwiches in this CBS 13 image. Cape Elizabeth High School is dropping out of the national school lunch program because of the nutritional standards it places on participants. Credit: CBS 13

Cape Elizabeth High School is now dropping out of the National School Lunch Program.

It’s a growing trend among school districts nationwide which say the federal standards for healthy foods are too strict.

The Cape Elizabeth School Board approved the request from the food service director to withdraw from the federally subsidized program.

He says the high school is actually losing money because students stopped buying school meals or are wasting food because they don’t like what’s being served.

Food service director Peter Esposito said rules from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, intended to address childhood obesity, are too strict

He said many recipes “made from scratch” don’t meet the guidelines.

“Now it’s getting harder and harder to make those recipes work with current guidelines — sodium levels, calorie content,” he said during a meeting earlier this month.

Esposito said food is being wasted and the school is losing money because students are bringing lunch from home instead of buying food at school.

Other schools nationwide are also dropping out of the program.

According to data from the USDA, participation in the lunch program dropped by more than 600,000 students since 2013.

“There have been increasing complaints and concerns,” said principal Jeffrey Shed who supports the decision to leave the program.

Esposito said pulling out of the program will only cost the school about $40 a day in subsidy because fewer than a dozen high school students get free or reduced price lunch.

“I think we could make that up by being able to sell bagels,” Esposito said.

School board members say it’s important to note the school department has its own nutritional policies, which just aren’t as strict as those from the federal government.

Last year the USDA rolled back some of the guidelines put in place by the Obama administration to give local schools more flexibility.

“We’ve listened to our partners and understand that many schools still face challenges in meeting certain requirements of the meal standards. These flexibilities give school nutrition professionals more control over the programs they run and greater ability to offer wholesome and appealing meals that reflect local preferences,” a spokesperson for the USDA said in a statement to CBS 13.

A final rule from the USDA related to nutrition requirements is expected to be published soon.

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