Kids all over the United States are served disgusting, unhealthy school lunches daily. Why? Because the government can’t afford to make the changes needed to support healthy meals in schools. I wonder though, how much know-how does it take to figure out budget changes? Is the government really this hard up for ideas?
First – how do school lunches work?
Currently the public school system spends less than $1 per kid (pdf) per lunch. One article notes that right now it costs about $3.05 to $3.20 to make one hot lunch. Federal subsidies help make up the costs at a minimum of 7% or a maximum of 84%, based on if a student pays for their own meal or is part of the federal school lunch program.
Another issue is commodity foods. The government does offer cheap, disgusting commodity food to schools at 18.5 cents per meal. We should knock that off entirely.
That’s not the whole story though – one article points out that federal money cover only half the cost of school lunches with local taxpayer funds covering the rest. If each school (via taxpayers) is seriously getting $5+ per kid, then healthy lunches should be the norm, not the exception. That’s related to poor planning though, plus I don’t have all the info on the truth or not of this claim, so right now we’re going to stick to funds.
How much would it cost to serve healthy lunches?
- The Healthy School Meals Act, H.R. 4870, introduces a pilot program that helps schools provide healthy plant-based alternatives at a cost of $4 million. That’s about $4 per kid.
- Some advocate that you can serve a healthy lunch for about $3 a pop.
- Chef Ann Cooper; aka Renegade Lunch Lady, thinks schools can serve up healthy meals for $1. A hard feat but not impossible.
Basically it doesn’t really matter how much funding schools currently get or how much it’ll cost to make healthy meals – it’s just a plain fact that all schools need more school lunch funding because after school labor, training healthy cooks, food transport and other costs, we just won’t have enough. We need a lot more cash!
Keep in mind that more school funding will actually help the budget. Right now, most experts agree that school lunches increase a child’s chance of becoming obese. Obesity related health issues are estimated to cost the USA $147 billion + in medical costs annually. Providing more money for school lunches is a win-win situation. Below, I’ve got some easy ideas for the government…
Ban idiotic ideas!
Okay, we weep and whine about school lunch costs right? So WHY ON EARTH are we serving carbonated, more expensive fruit to kids? My boyfriend’s daughter Jade told me about this stuff served in her school – Fizzy Fruit. I thought she was kidding, but sadly no. Her school serves up carbonated fruit.
We don’t have enough money for school lunches but schools are gleefully buying fruit that pops and fizzes. There are so many things wrong with this that I just don’t know, but my main concern is that kids will grow up thinking that “Fizzy” fruit grows on trees and is a normal thing. I have no clue how fruit that pops like soda builds healthy-minded kids.
Mary Lou Hennrich, executive director of Portland’s Community Health Partnership, notes in one article that Fizzy Fruit is a great way to get kids on board with fruit saying, “It’s important to get kids on track early on… What I’m concerned about are the kids whose families aren’t doing that. Kids get to school and they have not really tasted fruits or vegetables. A vegetable is a french fry to them.” Um okay? But now it’s fine that fizzy fruit is normal? How does this make any sense?
According to one article Wal-Mart carries Fizzy Fruit and sells it at $1.88 a cup. If schools serve this they have to purchase a Fruit Fizzolator carbonating unit and FizzyPakz carbonating sachets to make Fizzy Fruit in school kitchens. PLUS use time to make said Fizzy Fruit, not to mention that the fruit must be served within 20-40 minutes after opening or the fruit becomes “flat.” Fizzy Fruit is a time and cost investment we could cut.
The mere fact than I had no idea Fizzy Fruit existed makes me wonder how many other lame unnecessary food products schools are wasting cash on. I’m guessing there’s more.
Cut bottled water spending:
Most states spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on bottled drinking water for state employees. Let’s see; bottled water for state workers or spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars on healthier school lunches? Am I nuts for thinking state employees could drink tap water?
A fat tax or soda tax:
Okay, I’m not 100% on board with a fat tax. However, I am on the fence. On one hand I don’t think it’s cool that the government decides what’s healthy and what’s not, but heck, they already tax cigarettes. Why not just tax soda and fast food and use that money to pay for healthier school lunches. Non-advocates say a fat tax targets the poor, but poorer kids also eat school lunches. It it more important that all Americans be able to afford tax-free soda? OR should all kids get a healthy meal? Of course, I’m on the meal side.
Fact – we don’t need cheap soda. Kids do need healthy lunches.
Force energy savings:
According to a great piece at E, US wide, schools waste 1.5 billion on energy waste annually. 1.5 billion is a lot of fresh produce for kids’ school lunches. I think the government should get more on board with forcing states to make districts engage in energy-saving activities and changes.
Use a little more energy – BUT save trees and money:
Of course I just said schools should save energy, but if schools installed air hand dryers in bathrooms they could save trees and costs over paper towel use. Schools won’t use cloth obviously, so air is likely a cheaper solution. Some estimate that it could save a school thousands per year to use air dryers vs. paper towels, although I’d have to research it more to be sure. It’s an idea.
I’d say we’re spending too much on trying to educate and not enough time and creativity on actually educating. We could cut some school money earmarked for teaching and use it for better food. Before you freak read this article – schools here spend more yet teach worse than most everywhere else.
Quit with the books already:
Textbooks are outrageously priced. Yeah some are necessary, but how many aren’t? Going digital for kids who have learned to read already would be a simple, effective way to save paper and cash.
My kick ass credentials:
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to come up with money saving ideas that can be used in order to better afford healthy school lunches. Above I noted many ways that we could save tons of cash and my credentials, well, it’s not like I’m an accountant.
- I have a math degree, but trust me, it’s not like I use it.
- I’m a concerned parent. My son does not, BTW eat school lunches, in fact his school doesn’t even have the public lunch program. But I sure as heck don’t want other kids eating this slop.
- I know healthy food matters – already I’m one step ahead of the government on this one.
What ideas can you come up with that could save money and help us afford better school lunches for all kids?