Monday, April 14, 2008

Higher Food Prices Challenge Schools' Efforts to Provide Healthier Meals

As prices for milk and other basic food items increase, schools have to make decisions and cut corners, and just at a time when movements like Farm to School and school nutrition committees are pushing for more local, fresh ingredients and less processed and ready-made food. Maria Glod writes about the concessions schools are making in the Washington, DC area as they struggle to keep lunch programs from going in the red. In her article, Schools Get A Lesson in Lunch Line Economics: Food Costs Unravel Nutrition Initiatives, she notes:
Each year Uncle Sam, in an effort to ensure the neediest children get healthy meals, gives schools a little more cash to help feed students. But school officials nationwide say the federal share hasn't kept pace with rising costs. This year, the U.S. Agriculture Department is giving schools $2.47 per lunch to serve free meals to children from the poorest families, up from $2.40 last year, a 3 percent increase. In the same time, milk prices rose about 17 percent and bread nearly 12 percent.

This serves as an excellent reminder that work at the local and state level must be balanced by support at the federal level. It may also mean that states may need to start kicking in some funds to increase budgets for food in schools. As School Nutrition Directors have told us again and again, they cannot serve healthy fresh lunches without reasonable funding.