Schools can request exemption from the Whole Grain-Rich Requirement

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COLUMBIA - An unpopular breakfast item may be disappearing from school cafeterias in Columbia. The United States Department of Agriculture has released an extension notice which allows schools to request exemption from the school meals' Whole Grain Rich Requirement. 

This has been extended for the 2016-2017 school year. 

School food authorities are allowed to request the removal of items from the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. 

Laina Fullum, the director of nutrition services for Columbia Public Schools, said only one item has been put under a waiver.

The whole grain biscuit item was proving unpopular with students. 

“Whole grain biscuits, the texture is very dry, and it’s tough, it’s a tougher texture. The color is also not accepted by students, and so we opted to go with a white flour biscuit. We only use it about once a week, and it’s at breakfast, so really that’s the extent of the effect it will have,” Fullum said.

This is the only requirement Columbia is requesting to opt out of. 

According to Fullum, schools "can’t opt out 100 percent, but I think that each school is experiencing some hardship surrounding the whole grain requirement, and so therefore that allows us an opportunity to solicit assistance with the USDA to say ‘hey, you know, these particular products are not accepted by our students or we can’t find a good product.'”

School requests still have to be waived with the Department of Education.

“For the most part, we want to emulate a healthier version of what they are getting at home, and if what they are getting at home is a much better quality, then we would like to emulate that. And if we can’t with the biscuit, then we just want to opt out,” Fullum said.

The extension is only for the next school year and will be revisited on a yearly basis. 

“You can serve all the healthy food you want, but if the child is not eating it, that does us no good," Fullum said.

The decision to extend the notification depends on the amount of students participating in school meals.