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

Ideas and Innovation
staff pack

To keep staff motivated, we locked them in a room together. As part of a midsemester training session, we formed work groups and sent them to a local Escape Room to see which team could play the game together most effectively and escape first. Not only was this training a great team-building experience, but it supported a local new business and gave our staff a memorable experience.

Ideas and Innovation
star employee

Senior leadership meets twice a year to do organizational talent planning for every position from the top down. We talk about who are the potential high-performers, and go through how they can grow. People are your differentiator—you need to take care of your assets, and your assets are your human resources.

Industry News & Opinion

Students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor will be served student-grown produce from the campus farm at dining halls this fall, M Live reports.

The dining team received its first batch of produce from UM’s on-campus farm in June, after students received the proper USDA certification to grow, harvest and deliver food to campus dining halls. In order to figure out what produce is needed, students communicate with the dining department weekly, and Michigan Dining purchases items accordingly.

"The students are involved from seed to plate," Executive Chef Frank Turchan...

Sponsored Content
college students eating

From Ovention.

Today’s colleges and universities know they should offer more than a large selection of breakfast cereals in the morning and chicken tenders at lunch to appeal to students. When it comes to what’s trending on campuses, here’s a look at what directors can tune into to boost engagement.

1. Expanded dining hours

Late-night options have long been a popular fixture on college campuses, but if it’s too late, students often choose to venture to off-campus retailers to satisfy their cravings. According to Technomic’s 2017 College & University Consumer Trend...

FSD Resources