DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. – After a dramatic plunge in lunch sales of nearly 20 percent, the Downers Grove High School District is considering ditching the National School Lunch Program.
The district – some 30 miles from the home of school lunch overhaul champion Michelle Obama – finds itself with 67 percent of its students choosing alternatives to the healthier school-prepared meals required to receive federal reimbursements, which currently equal about $520,364 per year.
Since 2012, the total number of lunches served daily has dropped from 2,066 to 1,706. Of the lunches served, the number of paid lunches dropped from 1,309 to 884, while the number of free lunches jumped from 607 to 716.
About 35 percent of students enrolled in the district were eating a hot lunch the past two years, after holding largely steady at 39 percent until 2013, according to figures provided by District 99 Controller Mark Staehlin at the Aug. 18 board meeting.
The drop-off coincided with the first-year federal regulations for more stringent nutrition standards changed menus substantially.
“When you go from regular hamburger buns to a wheat bun, a lot of kids don’t want that anymore,” Staehlin said.
District 99 school board member Michael Davenport called the regulations “laudable” and “great things to aspire to.”
“However, we have 65 percent of the students saying ‘I’m not going to participate,'” Davenport said, according to the paper.
The Downers Grove district wouldn’t be the first to opt out of the federal National School Lunch Program.
Neighboring Lake Park dropped it, as well.
“We don’t really know what to blame the reduction on,” district controller Staehlin said.
As the news story indicates, the 18.5 percent plunge coincides with the lunch and snack regulations pushed by Michelle Obama. Maybe those?
Meanwhile, Downers Grove isn’t the only district struggling with the new regulations.
Adrian, Michigan schools food service director Shelley Miller tells The Daily Telegram, “students will feel disappointment from the guidelines.”
“The kids are not going to see, which they have always seen, a homemade, big cookie. I’ve talked to directors statewide and I’ve heard that,” Miller is quoted as saying. “We’re going to find smaller ones that are whole grain-rich to try to fill the void.”
“(Students) think it’s silly to have a fruit or vegetable on their tray when they say they’re not going to eat it anyways,” Madison School District food service director Julie Taylor said to the paper. “They’re just going to throw it away. It is a waste of food.”