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

Risley Dining Room at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., has just become 100 percent gluten-free, 14850.com reports.

For the past two years, the university has slowly phased out gluten in the dining hall’s menu by eliminating it in its stir fries, biscuits and brownies.

Instead of offering gluten-free versions of typical college fare, including pizza and pasta, the dining service team aimed for more sophisticated restaurant-style items.

Along with being gluten-free, Risley is also peanut free and tree-nut free.

The dining room is the second college eatery...

Industry News & Opinion

James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., recently hosted a weeklong program called Weigh the Waste, which aimed to show students how much food gets wasted in dining halls, The Breeze reports.

Throughout the week, students placed food they were about to throw away on a scale located near the trash bins at one of their dining halls. At the end of the week, the school tallied the waste and saw that 817 pounds of food had been wasted.

School officials hope that the annual program, which it’s hosted since 2015, will remind dining hall patrons to only take as much food as...

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Maryland will begin offering weekly specials at all of its dining halls this semester, The Diamond Back reports.

The weekday specials will allow Dining Services to offer past menu items that students miss as well as new dishes students have been requesting, according to a spokesperson.

Students can find out which specials are being offered each week via dining hall table tents as well as through Dining Services’ social media. During select weeks, the specials may reflect a particular theme, such as Taste of the South.

Read the full story via...

Menu Development
salad chicken

Vegetables and grains have stepped into the spotlight, thanks to the “flipping the plate” trend, but protein is still an important part of a balanced diet. Sources including meat, cheese, nuts, and meat alternatives such as tofu and tempeh can and should still be on the plate—albeit as a side dish or topping rather than the main event.

“Whatever we do [as FSDs] needs to be rooted in the culture, and today’s culture is all about healthy eating and plant-focused meals,” says Chris Studtmann, executive chef at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. “A recipe is an idea; culture is...

FSD Resources