In today's competitive 24/7 media world, the rush to write a provocative story often overrides the professional need to get the story right. And once a story is published or hits the airwaves, it gets repeated over and over whether it is correct or not.
Case in point, an August 27 Associated Press story, "Some school districts quit healthier lunch program," misleadingly implied that new healthier lunches were causing a mad rush by school districts to withdraw from the federally funded National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and led to copycat articles suggesting that children won't eat healthier food.
The AP article based the premise for the article on a false interpretation of a School Nutrition Association (SNA) survey. The reporter concluded that school food service districts were opting out of the NSLP and refusing to adopt the new Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 regulations which require more fruit, vegetables and whole grains in school meals, and less sodium and empty calories, because children won't eat healthier food.
The SNA was so upset by the AP's inaccurate reporting that they put a clarification on their website the next day explaining that the survey had not asked student nutrition directors if they planned to remove their entire school district from the NSLP but rather if they expected to drop any individual schools within their district from the NSLP.
According to the SNA survey of 521 school nutrition directors, "The vast majority of respondents (92.7%) reported that they do not plan, nor are they considering, dropping any schools from NSLP, clearly indicating that there is no national trend of schools dropping out of NSLP. Only 1% of respondents reported that they plan on having a school drop NSLP and only 3.3% reported that they are considering having a school drop NSLP."
I guess that the AP reporter decided to exaggerate because having five school nutrition directors say that they would drop one school each from the program doesn’t make a compelling national story, especially when hundreds of thousands of individual schools plan to continue in the NSLP program.