I read an article in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune regarding the Federal School Lunch Program guidelines. Of course, I cannot locate the article online today, so I’ll do my best to summarize it. Students that meet or fall below federal poverty guidelines are entitled to free or reduced lunch prices. The schools provide these meals, and then the school is reimbursed for each free or reduced lunch they provide. Seems like a good system, right? Hungry kids get meals, schools get reimbursed, and everyone is happy.
However, due to new federal guidelines to prevent childhood obesity and promote healthy eating, starting next year, the federal guidelines for the school lunch program will also dictate that those schools who receive federal school lunch reimbursement will need to meet healthy food guidelines in all areas of the school—vending machines, fundraisers, bake sales, etc. This new mandate in has many school districts in Illinois wanting to pull out of the federal school lunch program for next school year. These schools don’t want to say goodbye to pop in vending machines, cupcakes and cookies at school bake sales, and candy for school fundraisers.
Honestly, I’m not sure where I stand on this issue. I enjoy a cookie like anyone else and certainly the cookies will sell better than a carrot stick. However, schools do have a responsibility to educate their students on a healthy lifestyle. Perhaps by eliminating the unhealthy choices, students will have to choose the more nutritious options.
The thing that really irks me regarding this issue is that schools are willing to give up free money from the government in order to keep their cookies, candy, and pop! How can schools complain about budget cutting when they aren’t willing to adapt to keep the money they are guaranteed?
Thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet me @barry_christine