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No Tennessee district has suggested dropping out of the federal program, said Lyla Beasley, core regional consultant for nutrition at the Tennessee Department of Education. The program reimburses schools for meals and gives them access to lower priced food. If a system opts out, it loses that funding.

Spencer Taylor, school nutrition director for Metro Nashville schools and a dietitian, said school lunches never were intended to sustain children late into the afternoon and through extracurricular activities.

"Many of these children have never seen or tasted some of the fruits and vegetables that are being served before, and it takes awhile to adapt and learn," she said.

Not every district can afford to quit. The National School Lunch Program provides cash reimbursements for each meal served: about $2.50 to $3 for free and reduced priced meals and about 30 cents for full price meals. That takes the option of quitting off the table for schools with large numbers of poor students.

Money issue for some

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but most kids are getting enough to eat, said Patsi Gregory, school nutrition program supervisor for Robertson County Schools.

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Dickson County School Director Danny Weeks said his district "would not be able to function" without the National School Lunch Program. However, he has seen a decrease of about 8 percent in regular meal participation and attributes the decrease to the new rules.

Some students, however, think otherwise.

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"They are getting more and healthier food," Taylor said of the new requirements that allow kids to have more than one fruit at lunch. "Whether they get enough to eat depends on what a kid is used to consuming. We're big eaters now."

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Dr. Janey Thornton, deputy undersecretary for USDA's Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, which oversees the program, said she is aware of reports of districts quitting but is still optimistic about the program's prospects.

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"My hands are tied," he added.

One year into a federal plan to make school lunches healthier, Tennessee school food supervisors say they think students are Converse Womens Shoes

Taylor added that more nutritious food is often not as filling as other choices.

But districts that rejected the program say the reimbursement was not enough to offset losses from students who began avoiding the lunch line and bringing food from home or, in some cases, going hungry.

He has had a few complaints from both parents and teachers that the students aren't getting enough food at lunch to sustain them through the day especially the very active students.

from whole to fat free chocolate milk caused the most fuss, said James Remete, food service director. Parents didn't like the change because their kids quit drinking milk, he said.

"There was a misconception the kids were going to get less food. They really aren't," Gregory said. "They're getting different food. They're getting healthier food. They're getting fruits and vegetables."

Auston Martinez had chopped steak, gravy and mashed potatoes but no vegetable. "Oh yeah, I had enough," he said.

In December, the Agriculture Department, responding to complaints that kids weren't getting enough to eat, relaxed the 2 ounce per day limit on grains and meats while keeping the calorie limits.

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The biggest problem for Blair's group has been waiting on vendors to start selling products that meet the low sodium and low fat guidelines.

The School Nutrition Association found that 1 percent of 521 district nutrition directors surveyed over the summer planned to drop out of the program in the 2013 14 school year, and about 3 percent were considering the move.

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Mallory Gonyea, a soccer player, included the vegetables, but she was packing calories for a game that afternoon. "It's really good," she said.

Healthier school lunches don't go over well with some Middle TN kids

"So, it's not a shock," Blair said of the food he is serving. "For some people, change is hard."

In Rutherford County schools, about 7 percent more kids are eating school lunches this year than last year, said Fred Blair, director of school nutrition.

generally happy with the menus.

Blair said his staff started preparing for the changes long before they were mandated, experimenting with meals that had the required whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

On Thursday at Stewarts Creek High in Rutherford County, many of the students were eating the potatoes and meat, but very few opted for the vegetables.

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Reactions such as hers have spurred some school systems across the nation to drop out of the $11 billion National School Lunch Program, complaining that so many students turned up their noses at meals packed with whole grains, fruits and vegetables that the cafeterias were losing money.

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