According to a Board Brief from the Feb. 2014 board meeting, the school board is considering contracts for the 2014-2015 food services as the school’s contract with Quest is set to expire this year. One of the main questions that the board is discussing is whether or not to seek federal funding from the National School Lunch Program. Participating in this program may reduce the cost for the school, but it would lead to a reduced variety of food available to students.
Currently, the school does not participate in the Federal funding program which means that the school does not receive federal money for students who receive a qualified lunch. The school has not previously sought out federal funding as the food received may be of “poorer quality and quantity.” However, the program is being considered now as it may reduce costs for the school.
“The Federal funding program requires that nutritional guidelines have to be met. There is also a lot of paperwork that needs to be in order to make sure that students who do qualify are getting the government subsidy,” said Jennifer Planson, a school board member.
The Federal funding program includes very specific food and beverage requirements that need to be met. According to the Federal Register, some of the requirements include that the food has to “be a grain product that contains 50% or more whole grains by weight”, “be a combination food that contains a fourth of a cup of fruit and/or vegetable”, and that the beverage has to be “plain water, lowfat milk and nonfat mild, or full strength fruit or vegetable juices”. If the school decides to participate in the program, the food service company would have to comply with these requirements.
“The program affects fundraising, bake sales, anything done during the school day because that’s considered competitive foods. In areas that really do need the funding, it works really well. In other areas where you don’t, the main thing lost is the choice. Also, everything would have to be converted into meals,” said Elena Hildreth, district manager for Quest Food Management Services.
The board is looking for feedback from the students to see if students like the food that they are being provided and to see their overall impression of the food. While the cost for the school is a big issue, another issue is the nutritional value of the food. Already, Quest has implemented healthier options in the cafeteria.
“It all comes down to a cleaner label. The food has less processed products and [fewer] additives,” said Elizabeth Kujawa, Quest Food Services director.
Some of the most important issues to consider for the board are making sure that there are choices for students, ensuring good quality of the food, and making sure that the price is reasonable.
“We are looking at our options and seeing what is best for the district financially while also making sure the nutritional value is there and that there are food options available for students,” Planson said.
For further information about the Federal funding program, read here.