School foodservice revenue struggles to continue

Latest survey from SNA reveals many districts fear consequences of new nutrition mandates.

The financial stability of many school meal programs across the U.S. is being threatened by the double whammy of increases in food costs and decreases in revenue, according to the annual survey of school foodservice directors conducted at the Annual National Conference of the School Nutrition Association (SNA).

The survey of 240 directors from 46 states, released Monday, revealed that 87% saw food prices rise in the 2013-2014 school year, and 85% predicted increased food costs in the coming year. More ominously, 46% reported a decline in revenue last year and 43% expect a drop in sales in 2014-2015.

Although food prices are an effect of outside forces, the revenue losses are a direct result of changes to meal programs under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, SNA says.

“School nutrition professionals are committed to improving school menus and encouraging students to make healthier choices,” said SNA President Julia Bauscher. “We support most of the new nutrition standards, but some of the regulations have had unintended consequences to the detriment of school meal programs and the goal of promoting healthier diets for all students. USDA statistics prove student lunch participation under the new standards is down in 49 states with over a million fewer students choosing school lunch each day. Now, SNA’s new data show how these regulations are impacting the bottom line in schools nationwide. These challenges are real, and they threaten the sustainability of school meal programs while hindering efforts to make further menu improvements.”

The situation is even more dire for districts that are not eligible for the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which allows schools with high levels of free and reduced-price meal students to offer meals free of charge to all students. According to the survey, more than half of districts not participating in CEP expect a decline in revenue, versus only 18.5% of those in the program.

In addition to schools losing revenue as a result of decreased participation, 81% reported an increase in the amount of food being thrown away. Vegetables were most frequently identified as being responsible for the plate waste, a direct correlation to the new mandate that students must take fruits or vegetables at meals.

Other survey results included:

  • 59% said they expect a decrease in a la carte revenue under the new Smart Snacks in School rule, and 29 said they anticipate a strong decrease;
  • 22.5% of respondents said their program would be eligible for a one-year waiver, proposed in the 2015 House Agriculture Appropriations Bill, that would be granted to any district operating at a net loss for six months or more;
  • 60% expect that the mandate that all grains must be whole grain rich will increase their average cost of prospering meals in 2014-2015; and
  • 87% said they expect the new mandate that schools must offer a full cup of fruits or vegetables at breakfast will raise the cost of preparing breakfast, with an average increase of 14 cents.

SNA has asked the USDA to take several steps to ease the burden on districts, such as delaying the new grain requirement and holding off on new sodium restrictions “until scientific evidence supports them.”

More From FoodService Director

Sponsored Content
vegetables with dip foodservice healthy menu

From Mrs. Dash Foodservice.

There was a time when healthy food meant counting calories, omitting carbs, giving up sugar and going fat-free—in other words, it was all about deprivation.

But not anymore. Today’s definition of healthy means an overall focus on nutrition and wellness that doesn’t mean giving up enjoyment. It’s all about balance: good fats, healthy carbs, better sweeteners, wholesome ingredients and satisfying flavor enhancements. It means food that customers can feel good about, at the same time that they’re enjoying the dining experience.

According to...

Industry News & Opinion

Aramark today announced a partnership with celebrity chef and TV personality Cat Cora that will put a new concept from the Top Chef star in Aramark’s North American business-and-industry accounts.

The new fast-casual concept, called Olilo by Cat Cora, promises a healthy, made-your-way menu, according to the global foodservice provider.

“By bringing together Chef Cora's award-winning brand and healthy cooking advocacy and Aramark's commitment to enriching and nourishing the lives of the thousands of consumers we serve every day, we have an opportunity to elevate the on-site...

Industry News & Opinion

Members of Congress and several advocacy groups gathered on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to highlight the potential loss of millions in state funding because of a Child Nutrition Reauthorization block grant introduced last month, and to call upon legislators to squash the bill.

The Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016 houses a statute that would provide three unannounced pilot states with block grant funding. Participating states would be exempt from federal nutrition regulations and would no longer qualify for the 6-cent reimbursement per lunch garnered by certified...

Menu Development
blueberry pancakes

Breakfast is booming—and not just in the morning. The growing popularity of all-day breakfast helped fuel a 5.4% increase in McDonald’s first-quarter sales, management reported in April. And a survey by the NPD Group found one-third of “All Day Breakfast” buyers hadn’t visited the restaurant in the month prior to the extended breakfast hours.

While only 14% of operators surveyed for FSD’s 2016 FoodService Handbook said they expected breakfast sales to surge this year, jumping on the pancakes-and-bacon bandwagon looks increasingly profitable. With the erratic schedules of college...

FSD Resources