Friday, February 20, 2009

No Lunch Left Behind

Published: February 19, 2009

Berkeley, Calif.

THIS new era of government bailouts and widespread concern over wasteful spending offers an opportunity to take a hard look at the National School Lunch Program. Launched in 1946 as a public safety net, it has turned out to be a poor investment. It should be redesigned to make our children healthier.

Under the program, the United States Department of Agriculture gives public schools cash for every meal they serve — $2.57 for a free lunch, $2.17 for a reduced-price lunch and 24 cents for a paid lunch. In 2007, the program cost around $9 billion, a figure widely acknowledged as inadequate to cover food costs. But what most people don’t realize is that very little of this money even goes toward food. Schools have to use it to pay for everything from custodial services to heating in the cafeteria.

[Read the rest of the article at]


  1. I know in my heart Alice Waters means well. But the hard cold facts remain:
    Anything from a vending machine, while nutritionally lacking, is still cheaper than a cooked meal. Until food prices rearrange themselves, people will gravitate to the easy, cheap, and available. A non-cooking school kitchen only needs 2 employees to serve upwards of 400 students. If they actually had to prepare meals from scratch (peel, cut, cook, season), the labor costs skyrocket. There's not a single Title I school in this nation that can afford to do this - as much as they may want to. Going Green and eating locally all are good ideas, but not something many cash strapped, underemployed single parent families can afford. I prefer to send a healthy lunch and the School District can spend what they have on my children's education.

  2. Thanks for the link to this very good article! Lunches could be simpler if made fresh. Students could make their own in their classrooms. Would it be ridiculous to suggest something like hot soup or a couple of rice cookers or crockpots simmering in the back of the classroom each day? Less choice, but better food. Even a few loaves of sliced bread, a couple pounds of cheese and sliced turkey for the kids to make their own sandwiches would be an improvement. With supervision and a set routine, why wouldn't such a thing be possible?