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Articles: Food Services

Across the country, thousands of school districts are building and publicizing summer meal programs, components of a 48-year-old, federally funded effort to keep low-income children from suffering the health and cognitive effects of summer hunger.

Janet Poppendieck is a nationally recognized scholar and activist. She is the author of Free for All: Fixing School Food in America (University of California Press, 2010).

Janet Poppendieck, author of Free for All: Fixing School Food in America, says more must be done to end stigmatizing students who receive free lunches in school because it’s not a problem that will change anytime soon.

A renovated auto repair garage now houses Maryville High School’s growing culinary arts program as well as Café Le Rêve, a dining enterprise that caters to the local community.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which reimburses schools for free or reduced-price meals, will require all schools participating in the program to adopt a policy on how handle the issue of unpaid meals by July 1, 2017. (GettyImages.com: xixinxing).

Lunch shaming is the sort of term that never existed until this past spring, when it was seemingly everywhere.

The Fairmount Kindergarten Center near Seattle hopes to use innovative design to maximize classroom learning time when it opens in September for the 2017-18 school year.

More than five years after Congress required schools to serve healthier food, districts are using social media, technology tools and old-fashioned personal outreach to connect with parents. The goal: persuading them that today’s school meals are nothing like the sometimes unhealthy foods they remember from their own childhoods.

Students will likely choose healthier meals if provided with more comfortable places to eat. Modern lighting and food-court style designs can draw students to dining areas while school gardens can provide learning experiences and also supply cafeterias with fresh, less expensive produce.

Packaged items, crackers, milk, fruits and vegetables are among the items most often donated by schools.

A widespread belief that it’s illegal to give away extra or uneaten school food no longer has any basis in reality. The federal Good Samaritan Act allows schools to donate crackers, milk, fruits, vegetables and other items that would otherwise go to waste.

Some of the latest software solutions monitor applications for free meals and track federal and state reimbursement reports for the National School Lunch Program.

Serving meals in schools has changed dramatically over the last few decades.

Many students suffer food allergies, and others don’t have enough money in their lunch account.

Students in Baltimore City Public Schools now receive free breakfast and lunch every day under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act’s Community Eligibility Provision.

To expand food service, the district took advantage of funding through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act’s Community Eligibility Provision, a federal program that launched in 2011 allowing schools with high poverty rates to replace traditional, tiered-price meal programs.

LAUSD serves some 70,000 dinners daily, with plans to expand over the next two years.

Districts including Los Angeles USD and Dallas ISD will expand after-school supper programs this year, responding to the growing number of students who don’t get an evening meal at home.

Nationwide, the number of students served dinner or an after-school snack reached nearly 1 million last year. In 2010, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act expanded after-school meal programs to all 50 states after piloting them in 13 states and the District of Columbia.

Grand View Elementary School in California’s Manhattan Beach USD has cut its trash from 30 bags a day to two, reducing the number of garbage pickups and saving $4,700 a year.

One student generates about five pounds of waste in 180 days from simply drinking a carton of milk each day of the school year, according to the Carton Council, a national industry-sponsored recycling organization. Add in glue bottles, old test papers and leftover lunch, and it’s no wonder schools are looking for ways to reduce both the amount of waste filling trash bins and the money spent to have it hauled away.

Starting this fall, all meals at 35 Des Moines schools will be reimbursed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

More than half of Des Moines’ 60 public schools will soon offer free breakfast and lunch for about 17,000 students without them having to apply for it.

Teriyaki coho salmon skewers in Alaska. Red chile beef enchiladas in New Mexico. And Vietnamese pho soup in California. Inspired by new nutrition rules, districts are now offering these and other meals in hopes of getting students to eat healthier by appealing to their taste buds.

Competitive foods and beverages sold outside of the federally-reimbursed school meals programs are common in districts across the country.

They’re sold in vending machines and at snack bars, school stores and fundraisers. But with concerns rising about childhood obesity and other health issues, there has been a push for healthier snacks.

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