Have you ever thought about the times a child might eat a meal away from their family? How many of those times could be at school? This can add up to hundreds of meals during the school year. Should this be a cause for any concern? Is the federal government to involved? Are local districts not involved enough? Should parents have more accountability?
Government’s role in school lunches
The federal government has been involved for a long time in school lunches. If it’s setting minimum nutritional requirements or providing subsidies to schools so that each child can be fed regardless of ability to pay. These are all good things that can likely be best regulated from the federal government level. Over the years there has been an attempts from the federal government to improve the quality of school lunches. It could be the quantity of food or the quality of the lunch or how these impact the student health and their ability to make healthy choices later in life.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010
In 2010 the federal government increased their reach into the local school lunch programs. Many of the changes were based on the following statistics: over 31 million children receive school lunches, 17 million children live in households with food insecurity issues, and one in three children in America are not considered overweight or obese.
With the new Act of 2010 came funding, revised standards, improved access, and greater governance. With the revision of standards one of the initiatives was to create more farm to school networks and create school gardens to provide that more local food was being used in the school lunch setting. All of this came with 4.5 billion dollars of additional funding.
It’s now 2017 and the impact of the 2010 Act has taken most local school districts out of the school lunch business all together. Sure, they still have cafeterias full of kids eating lunch but the actual business of planning, preparing, and serving school lunches has been outsourced to a management company with it’s headquarters states away from our local districts. This has been caused in large part by increased cost of implementing the 2010 Act. School lunch programs are now driven by economies of scale making it very difficult for a single district to act independently.
The most important fact for us to remember is that parents have the ultimate choice and responsibility to their children. We need to be educated and make the most informed decisions we can. There is always the option to send your child with his lunch in his favorite Star Wars lunch box.
My name is Sean Schelkopf and I live in Morton, IL with my beautiful wife Rebecca and 3 children, Tess, Ryan, and Grant. And yes, everyone in this group get to eat school lunch every once and a while.