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School food service programs feeling pressure in lean times

When it comes to discipline, few in the educational realm harbor nostalgia for the way teachers punished their students in days gone by. But Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), a proponent of healthier standards in our nation’s schools, remembers one reprimand quite fondly.

“If a teacher caught you with candy, you got a ruler on the knuckles,” he said at NSBA’s Federal Relations Network conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday.

With concern about childhood obesity levels and how a lack of physical activity affects student academic growth, reforming nutrition and exercise in school will shape the health practices of the next generation.

An article in the San Francisco Chronicle called the National School Lunch Program, which feeds 60 million children across the country, a major threat to public health. Instead of providing students with the healthiest options, the program requires schools to serve the most available food commodities, meaning they will eat more milk and meat than fruits and vegetables.

Nationally subsidized food programs are especially important to students who may find their healthiest or most nutritious meal in the cafeteria and not on the dinner table. When money is tight, however, schools are thankful they can provide any meals to their students.

In California, the school lunch program that offers free and reduced lunch to students from low-income households could run out of money without $19.5 million in additional funds. During the 2007-08 school year, California served 770.6 million meals to students. A shortfall of that magnitude would leave far too many plates empty.

As budget woes threaten the security of school food services and officials consider reform, this may be a good time to remember our parents’ scolding and stay out of the cookie jar.

For an in-depth look at the challenges of operating a school food service program, reach back into our archives and read this.  

Christian Kloc, Spring Intern

Naomi Dillon|February 6th, 2009|Categories: Governance, Wellness, American School Board Journal|Tags: , |

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