Schools' New Balancing Act: Staying on the National School Lunch Program?

One foodservice director offers his thoughts on being part of the federal program in the face of new meal regulations.

The implementation of the new U.S. Department of Agriculture meal regulations for school breakfasts and lunches may be causing some school districts—particularly those with low percentages of students receiving free or reduced-price meals—to consider the wisdom of being part of the National School Lunch Program. The program is voluntary; schools must be part of the program in order to receive any federal subsidies.

FoodService Director recently heard from the foodservice director at one school district where, ironically, schools might have to consider going back on the program due to the economy. Warren Grigg, director in Chesterfield County, Va., shared his story with us.

“Chesterfield County Public Schools, located outside Richmond, Va. removed their high schools from the federal Breakfast and Lunch program more than 18 years ago,” says Grigg. “Currently we have 10 high schools and one technical center on what we call a ‘non-federal breakfast and lunch program’. When we removed them from the program, they were struggling financially because the students did not care to participate in the federal program. They wanted to buy à la carte.”

He notes that, at one time, there were as many as six districts in Virginia whose high schools were not participating in the NSLP. Now, the only other district similar to Chesterfield is Hanover County.

At the time of the high schools’ withdrawal, Chesterfield County had only 15% of its students who qualified for free or reduced-price meals, he adds. However, now the district’s level is 32%.

“We are still maintaining profitability as a group, but there are many more challenges than before,” Grigg explains. “I believe, with the new regulations, many systems may be looking at [leaving the NSLP], but it is not for everyone. We have even discussed putting ours back on the federal program due to the increased number of free and reduced within the county.”

Grigg says that he would like to see what happens during the next few years as the new meal regulations “settle down.”

“Currently, we are seeing and hearing that full-paid students’ participation in the federal program has decreased nationwide due to the new regulations, and we have seen it here too in our elementary and middle schools,” he explains. “That is a big number for us and we depend on the full-paid students greatly. We are really watching to see what is happening nationwide with this category.”

FSD would like to hear from other districts regarding participation in the NSLP? Are you considering withdrawing from the program, either wholly or in part? If you are not part of the NSLP, are you thinking about rejoining and, if so, why? Send us your stories via email at pking@cspnet.com

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion
k-12

The School Nutrition Foundation —the School Nutrition Association’s philanthropic sibling—and Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign have partnered to launch an initiative called Schools as Nutrition Hubs.

“No Kid Hungry really sees schools as a critical place in the fight against childhood hunger,” says Laura Hatch, director of national partnerships for No Kid Hungry. “Schools are really a no-brainer because they have the infrastructure, they have the experience, it’s a trusted place for families. And being able to maximize their programs and maximize the federal...

Ideas and Innovation
walk-in cooler

The walk-in cooler can serve as a gathering place for more than just produce. When temperatures rise, staff at Empire State South restaurant in Atlanta host meetings in the walk-in and make occasional trips to hang out throughout the day to beat the back-of-house heat.

Menu Development
college students eating

Taste may reign supreme when college students choose their next snack, but operators should also pay attention to factors such as price and portion size. Here are the most important attributes students consider when choosing snacks, according to Technomic’s 2017 College and University Consumer Trend Report .

Taste: 78%

Ability to satisfy my appetite between meals: 67%

Price: 64%

Portion size: 54%

Familiarity: 46%

Overall nutrition value: 40%

Protein content: 36%

All-natural ingredients: 29%

Fiber content: 27%

...

Managing Your Business
student shame
Let students charge meals

“We allow students to charge meals at all levels; even in high school, they can charge a certain number of meals. [After that is met,] they are given an alternate meal,” says Sharon Glosson, executive director of school nutrition services for North East Independent School District. Elementary students can charge up to $15 of meals; middle schoolers can charge $10; and high schoolers can charge $5. “Ultimately, [food services is] carrying out the policy; but we’re not necessarily the creators of the policy, [nor do we] have the final say ... because that budget...

FSD Resources