Moving toward a new ‘universe?’

USDA launches pilot in three states for universal free meal programs.

The federal government nudged a bit closer to the idea of free meals for all schoolchildren this summer when the U.S. Department of Agriculture selected three states to kick off a new universal free breakfast and lunch program. As the new school year kicks off, districts in Illinois, Kentucky and Michigan will have the option of providing free meals to all students, so long as at least 40% of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

Although the three states are listed by the USDA as participating in a “pilot,” it doesn’t appear from USDA literature that this concept is at risk of being scuttled. The original release about the program, disseminated in late March, noted that more states would gradually be added until the 2014-15 school, when all states would be given the option.

As with any idea, there are pros and cons to universal meals in school. The biggest positive, of course, is that all students—no matter now poor—would be guaranteed 10 nutritious meals per week when schools are in session. Many school administrators believe that there are many students who currently don’t eat the meals to which they are entitled because they don’t want to be stigmatized as poor. They see universal free meals as a way to remove that stigma.

The biggest negatives are how will this program be funded as it moves toward national status, and the arguments from taxpayers who believe their taxes should not pay for meal for students whose parents can afford the cost.

In addition, according to some published reports there are some districts whose administrators believe the new program actually will net them less in federal funds than they receive now. Those districts are choosing to opt out of the deal.

The biggest question I have is, how solid is this program? After all, it is part of President Obama’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The possibility that the president will be residing somewhere other than the White House beyond January 2013 is very real, and if that happens who knows what a Republican leader might do to such a program.

Success speaks for itself, so the plan might make such a overwhelming difference in the lives of young Americans that it would survive the worst conservatives could throw at it. The biggest problem is, the fledgling program might never survive to maturity.

I personally haven’t decided where I stand on the issue. For the time being, I’m willing to go on a little faith; I don’t want any child to suffer if we can do anything to prevent it. But schools have barely opened this year and the clock is already ticking.

Keywords: 
new concepts

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Students and union representatives are petitioning Eastern Michigan University’s plan to outsource its foodservice operations, calling for the school to delay such a move to allow for further discussion with stakeholders, MLive reports .

EMU last week announced a tentative agreement to hand over its residential, catering and retail foodservices to Chartwells, a deal the university’s interim president avered would enable the school to expand and upgrade its eateries while maintaining high food quality, MLive says.

Opponents of the plan say they are concerned about what they...

Sponsored Content
whole grain pasta foodservice menu

From Barilla.

With younger consumers eager to explore new flavors and better-for-you options, whole-grain pasta is winning greater acceptance in American diets.

As more and more college and university students seek out whole grains in their meals, dishes featuring whole grains are on-deck to become menu mainstays.

At the University of Iowa, whole-grain foods have won general acceptance, says Barry Greenberg, executive chef for university dining. Two marketplace dining facilities on campus offer whole-grain pasta as a regular option and incorporate it into baked...

Managing Your Business
woman awake

Summer is no idle time for foodservice directors working at colleges and universities: They’re planning for the futures of their programs. Operators in FoodService Director magazine’s 2016 College and University Census reported an average 16,000-plus students at their schools. During a recent summit FSD hosted with a dozen C&U operators, the people behind some of the nation’s top programs told us what’s keeping them up at night. (FSD is sharing their thoughts anonymously to allow their answers to remain as candid as possible.)

More mouths to feed, but not more resources

At a...

Menu Development
cia menus of change

The Menus of Change initiative aims to do nothing less than change the way the world eats. A collaboration of the Culinary Institute of America and Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School, the program sets out broad principles and ambitious goals that require fundamental changes in foodservice, agriculture, health policy, food processing and even what happens at the family dinner table.

But the means of achieving those lofty ends are often small advances and tweaks to the collective mindset, as the CIA’s annual conference on the initiative reminded attendees this week.

Here...

FSD Resources