Budget Problems Mean Healthy School Lunch Problems

June 15, 2009

By Mark Bishop, Deputy Director

This great article reinforces
so many important messages about the importance of healthy school
meals. I'll try to summarize with my own perspective:

1) Wellness teams have made a huge impact in schools
2) School need more money for better food
3) Kids not only will eat healthy food – but they prefer it!

A little more detail:

First, wellness teams have made a huge impact in schools.

In Ridgway Colo., the elementary school food program serves “wholesome,
made from scratch meals crafted from fresh ingredients. And more
nutritious, delicious meals aren’t all the innovative school meal
program has brought to Ridgway’s schools; teachers report that kids are
more ready to learn after eating a whole grain and fresh fruit and
vegetable-hearty meal at Ridgway’s lunchrooms.”

This healthy food program was created because of a
community-led wellness committee (established from the 2005 Child
Nutrition Act) that pushed this program forward. This shows how parents
can make real change in a school, and that federal policy has a
significant impact at the local level.

Second, schools need more money for better food.

Although
many schools run creative, healthful school lunch programs, these
programs often (if not always) cost more than the federal reimbursement
of $2.57. Schools may be subsidizing the extra cost from their general
revenue, a decision that gets even more difficult when budgets get
tight. If we expect more schools to improve the quality of their meals,
we need to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act with more funding
for school food programs.

Third, kids not only will eat healthy food – but they prefer it!

This
program turns conventional wisdom on its head. We constantly hear that
kids won't eat healthy food. But according to the article:

“The
toughest critics – the students – love their lunchroom fare. At the
Secondary School, where juniors and seniors are allowed to go
off-campus at lunchtime, more than 80 percent of the student body chose
to remain on campus and eat at Colby’s kitchen, making the lunchroom a
school family room of sorts.”

And after a discussion about
needing to cut back their program, one parent sums it up: “I just can’t
imagine our kids with hotdogs and tater tots.”