Politics and school lunches don't mix. In fact, the federal guidelines attempting to promote healthier school meals are causing local school officials major headaches.

The healthier food is driving students away from lunch programs.

Oakland Intermediate Schools reports that student participation has dropped by more than 4,700 meals per day — more than 5 percent — since guidelines went into effect in 2012.

Nationally, U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics show student lunch participation is down in 49 states, with more than 1 million fewer students choosing school lunch each day.

The more costly food and lower participation is pushing up lunch budget costs. A recent survey taken during the School Nutrition Association's annual national conference showed nearly a quarter of responding meal programs operated at a net loss for more than six months.

The federal regulations have taken control of a matter that should have been left in the hands of parents and local school boards.

AmeriCorps is making a difference

The work of the federal AmeriCorps program is impressive. It's a positive example of a private-public partnership that benefits not only its participants but America as a whole.

The federal government seeks volunteers to work with local nonprofit groups, schools, public agencies, corporations, foundations and faith-based organizations to improve life in the U.S. The volunteers do not get paid but receive a $12,000 per year stipend for living expenses.

More than 900,000 Americans have served more than 1 billion hours over the past 20 years. The program was created in 1993 and incorporates VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) and the National Civilian Community Corps. A third division, AmeriCorps State and National, has provided grants to hundreds of local organizations.

Recently, Ford World Headquarters hosted the swearing in of 250 volunteers. They then were dispersed to help flood victims in the Metro area.

Many federal programs distribute money with little oversight. AmeriCorps, however, draws in local groups and agencies for input, which adds creditability and efficiency to the use of tax dollars.

Cheers to new Royal Oak brewery

The Royal Oak City Commission has approved a zoning change that clears the way for a new microbrewery.

The proposed brewery and tasting room stirred controversy, with many residents voicing opposition to the business at a recent City Commission meeting.

But it appears the commission and some residents who expressed support for the development see a more positive side to the project. The brewery could breathe new life into an aging area. Developers reportedly will invest $1.5 million at the site of a vacant warehouse and old truck docks near South Main Street.

Concerns the brewery will be just another bar should be dispelled by looking at its operating plan, which the city can enforce. The plan reportedly calls for closing at 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and at 10 p.m. on other nights.

Residents should give the new brewery a chance because it has the potential for improving the area.

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