Lunch prices across the district will rise 30 cents this year due to changes being implemented under the new Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act.
The rise in cost to parents offsets the increased costs for the district, who now must provide more fruits and vegetables as part of a school lunch.
The Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA) was signed into law in December 2010. These changes are the biggest reworking of nutritional rules in fifteen years.
Healthy eating has been a major focus of First Lady Michelle Obama's work through her "Let's Move!" initiative.
According to food service director Paula Germinario, many of the new rules for the program have only been released in the last month and a half.
Many of the changes involve the nutritional content of school lunches. In the past, Germinario said, schools had to offer a choice of three of five categories of food: grain, fruit, dairy, protein and vegetables.
Spring-Ford, along with many other districts, previously used a "offer vs. serve" model of providing food.
"In the past, they could choose all five [categories] if they wanted all five, but they could also choose three of the five," Germinario said. "So if there was something they weren't really thrilled with, they didn't have to take it."
"Pizza and a milk would be considered a meal because your cheese would be your protein, your crust would be your grain, and your milk would be your dairy," Germinario explained.
Now, under HHFKA, one of those three things must be fruit or vegetables.
"This is a big change," said superintendent Dr. David Goodin. "The fruit or the vegetable has to be on the plate, even if they throw it away."
The challenge, Goodin said, is in educating parents and students about what will be served and why.
Germinario said that official communications will be going out this week to explain the new rules to parents.
The idea of Spring-Ford students being required to take a fruit or vegetable that they might then throw away provoked reactions from several board members.
Board member Mark Dehnert said that it is the "personal responsibility [of parents], not government responsibility, to determine what your child eats."
"It's a great intention if I through for a minute it would solve the problems [of poor health]," agreed board member Bernard Pettit. "You're taking away the rights of the parents to decide what their kids eat."
Other board members expressed concerned about the amount of food that would potentially be wasted by kids throwing away fruits and vegetables or other foods that they are required to take but do not want to eat.
"Are they going to monitor how much of this meal that's on the plate is being tossed then?" asked board member Dawn Heine. "As a parent who has three kids in the district, it's alarming. The amount of food that gets tossed now is overwhelming."
However, students will have an a la carte option that will be slightly less expensive, about ten to fifteen cents lower, which will allow them to choose three of the five categories of food.
If a student chooses to eat a la carte, Germinario said, they would not be required to take the fruit and vegetable included with the full lunch.
The downside to that for the school district is financial, as they do not receive the government reimbursement for a la carte meals.
Board member Edward Dressler asked student representative Elizabeth Brady if she had any thoughts on the requirements.
"Sitting in the cafeteria, seeing what people do eat and what they throw away, it seems that a la carte will be the more popular option," Brady said.