School districts bailing out of new federal lunch program?
posted at 7:02 pm on August 27, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
As the old adage says and every parent knows, you can lead a child to vegetables, but you can’t make him eat. After big losses in revenues as kids turn up their noses at federally-mandated nutrition, some school districts are bailing out:
After just one year, some schools around the country are dropping out of the healthier new federal lunch program, complaining that so many students turned up their noses at meals packed with whole grains, fruits and vegetables that the cafeterias were losing money.
Federal officials say they don’t have exact numbers but have seen isolated reports of schools cutting ties with the $11 billion National School Lunch Program, which reimburses schools for meals served and gives them access to lower-priced food.
Districts that rejected the program say the reimbursement was not enough to offset losses from students who began avoiding the lunch line and bringing food from home or, in some cases, going hungry.
And that didn’t help with the education part of school, either:
“Some of the stuff we had to offer, they wouldn’t eat,” said Catlin, Ill., Superintendent Gary Lewis, whose district saw a 10 to 12 percent drop in lunch sales, translating to $30,000 lost under the program last year.
“So you sit there and watch the kids, and you know they’re hungry at the end of the day, and that led to some behavior and some lack of attentiveness.”
This is a case of mandates screwing up a market. While public school lunches are the purview of government, there isn’t any need for the federal government to be running the show. States and local school boards should be ensuring that lunches are both nutritious and engaging enough to get students to eat properly during the day. What’s the best way to make sure of that? Listening to bureaucrats in Washington DC, or to parents and students in the schools? It looks like some districts are discovering that answer … the hard way.