recaps of the top 'ask me anything' interviews from reddit and more...
I am a (former) state-level administrator of the National School Lunch Program. Ask me anything!

Proof - this was my badge from the last in-person conference that I attended with USDA. I worked for a State Agency administering Child Nutrition programs at the state level.

I've seen several posts around Reddit discussing school lunches in the United States. Many people don't understand the massive amount of regulation around this program, so I'd like to provide an opportunity to educate the community!

At the federal level, the USDA administers three primary Child Nutrition programs:

  • The National School Lunch Program (and School Breakfast Program, which is technically separate but very similar and generally operated in conjunction with the NSLP) provides reimbursement payments to schools and residential child care institutions for meals served during the school day
  • The Child and Adult Care Food Program provides reimbursement payments to non-residential care programs for children as well as adults over 60 or adults with disabilities
  • The Summer Food Service Program provides reimbursement payments to schools or non-profit organizations who provide meals in eligible areas when school is not in session. This is generally during the summer months, but can also apply during periods of emergency closure.

Each state has an agency designated to administer these programs at the state level. Some states combine administration into a single agency (generally Education or Agriculture) while some states divide the programs among multiple agencies. The state agencies are the ones who implement, monitor and assess the programs within the state.

Here are some common questions and answers about the NSLP:

Is pizza really a vegetable?

Sometimes. It depends on the quantity/quality of the sauce. The most common frozen ones made for the NSLP will count as 1/8 cup serving (2 Tablespoons) of red/orange vegetables

What's the deal with "lunch debt"

The NSLP regulations are kind of complicated here. Schools must maintain a dedicated "Nonprofit school food service account" (NSFSA). All program revenue (federal reimbursement payments along with reduced/full-price and a la carte meal payments) must stay in the NSFSA and be used solely to operate and improve the food service program.

If a student accrues unpaid meal charges, those charges are owed to the NSFSA. If a school cannot collect those unpaid charges from the student's family then the school must reimburse the NSFSA from another source of non-federal funds.

This leaves schools in a very difficult position - do you get the bad press from serving alternate lunches to kids with unpaid debt or do you get the bad press from trying to find funds to reimburse the NSFSA?

Why can't we just give free lunches to everybody?

Because the current regulations impose an income test and specifically disallow schools from subsidizing the price of meals for students who don't qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Legislative change would be required for this. Schools are currently able to offer free meals to all students thanks to flexibilities and additional funding granted through various COVID relief acts.


57
questions
1,041
score
April 21st 2021
interview date
Headoutdaplane

I am a pilot in AK, one day I flew 200 lbs if salmon into the village for the school lunch program. Why wouldn't the school burrough just buy the salmon from the villagers? They have a strong salmon run and sell it on the market?

Always wondered that, like bringing sand to the beach.


crazymatt1

There has been an increased focus on buying local products, including specific allowances in procurement regulations to allow schools to give preference to local vendors. It's possible that the school was able to purchase the salmon you delivered at a significantly lower price than the local vendors could offer.

It's also possible that the salmon you delivered was part of the USDA Foods program, where USDA purchases large quantities of various food products and gives each school an allowance to purchase those foods from USDA.

awakeningat40

My old school had to switch to state lunches when they hit a certain amount of low income students. The quality of the food dropped drastically.

Is it supposed to be the cheapest possible with hitting the minimum health guidelines?


crazymatt1

When you say "state lunches", I'm guessing you mean the National School Lunch Program. As you said, schools are not required to participate in the NSLP until they hit a threshold of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

There are a number of factors that go into the perceived quality of the meals. First, as you mentioned, there are nutritional guidelines and meal pattern requirements that must be met for a meal to be considered reimbursable under the NSLP. Each meal must contain the following components:

  • Meat/meat alternate
  • Grain
  • Fruit
  • Vegetable
  • Fluid milk

There are additional requirements (sodium levels, fat content, whole-grain content, vegetable subgroups, etc.) that also come into play. For example, deep-frying is not allowed as a cooking method for any foods served in the NSLP. If your old meals weren't adhering to these requirements, then (especially from a child's perspective) the new meals could be perceived as lower quality.

There is also a financial consideration. For the contiguous United States, the maximum reimbursement amounts for lunches are:

Free $3.75
Reduced-price $3.35
Paid $0.48

If your school was previously providing significantly higher cost meals, they may not have been able to afford those under the NSLP reimbursement model.

Dear-Agony

Could you give me the recipe for the square pizza from my childhood, please?


crazymatt1

It was probably this. You can do a search for "CN label pizza" to see all of the options that are out there now!

HPWombat

The last time I partook in a school-supplied lunch was in 2003 in a very affluent white public school. Can you tell me what the biggest changes have been since I've interacted with school lunches that I might not be aware of?


crazymatt1

Michelle Obama brought a major focus on children's health during her tenure as first lady. the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act brought significant changes to the NSLP. The two main ones visible on students' trays are whole grains and vegetable subgroups.

  • All grain items served must be at least 50% whole-grain. This has lead to some interesting developments from major food companies (think whole-grain Pop-Tarts).
  • All lunches must now contain servings of both fruits and vegetables
  • Over the course of a week, schools must offer servings from each of the following subgroups:
    • Dark green
    • Red/Orange
    • Starchy
    • Beans/Peas/Legumes
    • Other

This has led to an increase in the variety of vegetables served to students. Edamame is a very popular choice among school lunches now!

greenmtnfiddler

What can I personally do to change our school lunches to include locally sourced ingredients?

The same week many of our (Vermont) students' parents were laid off in a local orchard closing, my school began its first-ever hot-lunch program -- and served Washington state apples, because we had to, because we were supplied via the high school, who had a contract with a large corporation.

This still makes me angry. It shouldn't be this way. But what can I do?


crazymatt1

This is tricky. Schools are required to comply with federal procurement regulations (specifically those found in 2 CFR Part 200). With that being said, there is the opportunity to apply geographic preference to procurements for unprocessed agricultural products. Unfortunately, it can be difficult and time-consuming for a school district to conduct a proper procurement process for many individual items. The recommendation that I used to give was to at least attempt to work with distributors who committed to supplying local produce.

Ultimately, though, it comes down to the time and personnel that the school has to devote to the food service.

HighFYI

Why are school lunches not proportional to your age? I get the same amount of food I'm getting in elementary school as I am in high school, its flat out just not enough.


crazymatt1

Generally, portions should get larger based on age/grade level. There are some circumstances where a school would be allowed to serve the same portions to everyone based on a K-8 meal pattern.

Mater4President

Legitimate question, are you ever embarrassed at some of the choices offered? Because as a parent, I am sometimes horrified.


crazymatt1

What choices horrify you? While they're certainly not "health food", they're probably not as bad as you think.

purplefrog8

I work at a school where 100% of kids get free lunch. I am seriously appalled by the amount of food waste that we produce. Students are told they have to take one of everything - even if they brought their own lunch. Yesterday we had pizza, broccoli and peaches. Every singly kid threw away their broccoli without opening the package. I've tried everything - eating the broccoli myself in front of them, daring them to try 1 bite, even saying they are not allowed to throw anything away without trying.

I'm sharing this because - while I love all of the health-drive initiatives that have occurred in the last few years, I don't believe they are having the impact we think they are having.

Without education, shifts in culture/mindset, the potential of these healthy changes will be lost. Do you have any tips for getting kids to have an open mind about these new lunches?

EDIT: a little more background - my students are first graders. It's not just the foods that kids stereotypically don't like (ie. broccoli). Grapes- they won't eat unless they're seedless... Oranges - they can't peel... Cherry Tomatoes - they legitimately didn't believe me when I told they they were tomatoes !!


crazymatt1

Does your school qualify for/participate in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program? The entire purpose of that program is to introduce kids to fresh fruits and vegetables that they may not have access to at home.

Edit - this is specifically separate from lunch. The idea is to introduce these foods in small quantities (a couple of bites) as a snack along with a fun/educational component sometime during the school day.

BeckWreck

My school lunch was literally the same food that the local state prison fed their prisoners. A friend of mine would write me letters occasionally and we would always write about the food that week.

How come the prisoners got more? School lunch was my only meal of the day and it always left me wanting more


crazymatt1

There are calorie limits (minimum and maximum) in place for meals served under the NSLP. These vary by age/grade level. USDA encourages schools to offer as many programs as possible (School Breakfast Program, After School Snack, After-school At-Risk, etc.) to help meet needs outside of lunch.

PuceHorseInSpace

Why are American school lunches so much less diverse than Korean school lunches, for example?

Many of the Korean lunches feature a diverse array of noodles, vegetables, tofu, carbs and assorted meats, all served in a neat and compartmentalized manner.

Edit: I haven't seen a school lunch in over a decade so please educate me if things have changed! :)

Also, thank you for what you do!


crazymatt1

I wouldn't say that American lunches are less diverse - lunches served under the NSLP could also feature all of those things. I think that cultural preferences play a large part in this - most American schoolchildren would rather eat macaroni & cheese than rice & kimchi because that's the type of food that they're familiar with.

School lunches have to strike a fine balance. They should expose kids to new and different foods (especially fruits and vegetables) while meeting all of the regulatory requirements and also provide foods that the kids will eat.

KGrahnn

There are differences between countries with school lunches. Have you benchmarked your lunches to other countries? How would you rank yours in comparison to others?


crazymatt1

I've often thought that this would be an interesting project! Even within a state, the quality of lunches can vary greatly from one school district to another, so it would be difficult to make a blanket statement about the entire country.

sloaninator

As a school custodian why does it feel like every other day is nacho day?


crazymatt1

I apologize for all of the crumbs on behalf of my own children.

shaymcquaid

Is it true the reason for starting the school lunch program was under nourished military conscripts? Thx.


crazymatt1

The current National School Lunch Program was primarily started to solve two concurrent problems:

  1. Children in need of food
  2. Farmers with surplus food

USDA purchased surplus food from farmers and made it available to schools in order to feed children.

There is a much more in-depth history available on the USDA website.

Humabdomen

Which is best?

Hoagies and grinders Navy beans Meatloaf sandwich Or...


crazymatt1

Yesterday's meatloaf is today's sloppy joes.

onemanclic

Thank you for running this great service! As a former beneficiary of this program, I am truly thankful to you...and especially my school lunch ladies! Questions:

  • On a gut level, providing low-income students free lunches makes sense to me. But I have heard that the data doesn't show this actually helps students learn; can you speak to that?
  • What are some reasons schools and communities don't like the program?
  • What do you think about conservative ideologies that say that these programs create a "culture of dependence"?

Thank you.


crazymatt1

On a gut level, providing low-income students free lunches makes sense to me. But I have heard that the data doesn't show this actually helps students learn; can you speak to that?

I have never personally done research into this, but I have seen reports by agencies such as FRAC that do seem to support the benefits of school meals outside of just nutrition.

What are some reasons schools and communities don't like the program?

The biggest complaints that I heard from schools were related to the regulatory and recordkeeping burdens of the program. Communities are also sometimes unsatisfied with the meal pattern requirements, although this can stem from a poor relationship between the school and community (or the school blaming problems on the program).

What do you think about conservative ideologies that say that these programs create a "culture of dependence"?

I think it would be great if no children had to rely on these programs for food. Until then, I'm glad these programs are in place.

FinsterHall

What entity provides oversight for individual schools? My mom became a lunch lady after her retirement to keep busy and would come home so upset because at least once a week kids were being given only corn for lunch. They served in three shifts and by third lunch that was all that was left to serve. This of course was in a poor district and for many kids it would be their only meal for the day. Her concerns were met with nothing but a shrug at the school level.


crazymatt1

The School Food Authority for a district is responsible for monitoring individual schools. This is generally the school district itself, but in some cases a large school district may manage the food service for a smaller neighboring district. The State Agency monitors the School Food Authorities. The list of state agencies is available from USDA.

jon-chin

I'm curious about your last statement. if I'm not mistaken, NYC passed universal free lunch a few years ago. how does this fit within current regulations?

https://www.nycfoodpolicy.org/new-york-city-public-schools-offer-free-lunch-to-all-students/#:~:text=Beginning%20with%20the%202017%2D2018,200%2C000%20students%20with%20free%20lunch.


crazymatt1

This was another new program introduced under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act called the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). It is available to any school participating in the NSLP based on "Direct Certification". Direct certification identifies children who are categorically eligible for free or reduced-price meals based on their participation in other benefit programs (such as SNAP). If a school (or school district) can directly certify at least 40% of its students, then they are eligible to participate in the CEP.

A school participating in CEP is required to offer meals at no charge to all students. The school also does not have to collect income eligibility applications at the beginning of each school year. The school receives reimbursement based on the percentage of students that are directly certified according to the following formula:

Direct Certification% * 1.6 = Free%
Total Meals * Free% = Meals reimbursed at Free rate
Total Meals - Meals reimbursed at Free rate = Meals reimbursed at Paid rate.

So if a school/district directly certifies 62.5% of its students, all meals are reimbursed at the Free rate.

stratospaly

My child has Celiac and cannot eat gluten. We have had her pack her lunch every day with foods she can eat, but the school also does a "snack" in the morning with sugary sweet foods and she feels left out. We talked to the nurse and the school now purchases gluten free choices, but none are as good as normal glutened food.

Do you know of anything being done for allergy needs of students in public schools on a national level?


crazymatt1

Schools participating in the National School Lunch Program are required to accommodate students with documented special dietary needs. This does not always mean offering exact substitutes.

I'm not sure whether the morning snack is part of one of the USDA programs or not, but it sounds like the school is making an effort to accommodate your child. If you have specific concerns about the foods being offered, you should definitely talk to your school and district staff.

HomelessCosmonaut

What is your opinion of the major corporate suppliers and catering contractors (I'm thinking companies like Sodexo) that have such a firm grasp on catering contracts across the country?


crazymatt1

There are definitely pros and cons to contracting out the food service. I've been on both sides (I also previously worked for a food service contractor). I've seen great operations and terrible operations run by the same company. They are definitely not the cure-all that they market themselves as, but they are sometimes better than what a school could do for itself.

CardMechanic

How do you get the pizza so square?


crazymatt1

Cut all the round parts off.

scrubjays

In the 1970s, in elementary school, we were fed from these small aluminum disposable compartmentalized trays, that were packed in bulk and kept warm by steam, I think. The 'french fries" would become kind of slimy from the moisture. While wolfing them down, they would all seize up in our esophaguses in this 200 degree bolus of pain, somewhere in our chests. After some heaving and hits on the back, it would somehow dissolve and move on. Didn't stop us from eating them. Did you guys have a name for that? I have never encountered it elsewhere, in any type of food.


crazymatt1

I think the scientific term may be "horking".

Purple-Marsupial-569

Thank you for getting on AMA. In terms of the quality of school lunches. Do you feel that the US is on par with other countries?


crazymatt1

I haven't done any research into other countries, but I think this could be an interesting project!

Garfazz

One time in 4th grade my classmate lifted up the cheese to the square pizza and it was all gray-ish and promptly threw up. Which caused 2 more kids at the table to throw up. This chain effect continued when 3 girls sprinted out of the lunchroom and threw up. Later on when someone purposefully was describing this story in class (same day), 4 more students threw up. By the end of the day 80% of the kids threw up. This is the power you have sir, quite impressive 👍 would you eat what schools slop out?


crazymatt1

Yes.

duquesne419

You mentioned legislation needing to change to end 'lunch debt', are there currently any bills in the works that we could support to this end? Anyone in Congress who is leading this charge?


crazymatt1

I have not kept up with current legislative action. Child Nutrition programs are generally addressed in the Farm Bill, so they tend to kind of get lost in there.

10thunderpigs

Why is pizza a vegetable?!


crazymatt1

Tomato sauce can count as a vegetable, but for pizza to count it generally has to have more sauce (and the sauce has to be thicker - more tomato solids/less water) than you would typically put on pizza.

elbows2nose

Is the Mexican pizza from the early 90s still around, and if so, how can I order a crate?


GatoTheSpiritAnimal

When i was in school (early 2000's) my mom couldn't afford the lunch reduced cost so i sat at a table with other kids whose parents couldn't afford it and we just didn't eat. Is this still a thing? The no lunch kids table? I always felt really embarrassed that i never had lunch. Eventually they let us hang out in the library so we didn't have to watch every one else eat.


crazymatt1

All schools are required to have a policy for charging meals (this is related to the lunch debt question in my OP).

USDA has an entire page dedicated to unpaid lunch charges, although as I mentioned in my OP it's a very tricky area of the regulations.

AbsoluteSymmetry

I’ve been out of the school lunch systems for a minute, but it seems people are always complaining about them. Is there anyway to see what an average week of food would look like for kids today?


crazymatt1

You should check the website for your local school district. Many districts publish their lunch menus online now!

kyabupaks

Okay, to begin with where I'm coming from: I'm deaf.

It's a widely known fact in the deaf community that schools for the deaf provide free lunch for all students, and free breakfast/dinners for residential students. No charge on the behalf of students and parents.

These institutions are provided with funds from the government, so how come regular schools can't have the same thing?

Can you explain the discrepancy here?


crazymatt1

That isn't universally true - not all schools for the deaf provide free lunch for all students. It's possible that your school may qualify for the Community Eligibility Provision that I mentioned in another response.

The basic answer is in my OP:

Why can't we just give free lunches to everybody?

Because the current regulations impose an income test and specifically disallow schools from subsidizing the price of meals for students who don't qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Legislative change would be required for this. Schools are currently able to offer free meals to all students thanks to flexibilities and additional funding granted through various COVID relief acts.

im2wddrf

Do you believe that the Community Eligibility Provision program can be universalized for all schools? Do you think that the formula for qualification (poverty rate, etc) is needlessly prohibitive? Also, do you think there are areas in nutrition where the USDA needs to update its requirements ? (Breakfast/lunch requirements for reimbursable meals, religiously based diet restrictions, etc).


crazymatt1

Do you believe that the Community Eligibility Provision program can be universalized for all schools?

Could it be? Of course, but it would literally require an act of congress.

Also, do you think there are areas in nutrition where the USDA needs to update its requirements ? (Breakfast/lunch requirements for reimbursable meals, religiously based diet restrictions, etc).

I think that many of the HHFKA changes were steps in the right direction. I'm curious what you're looking for in terms of the religious dietary restrictions?

bobagret

I have read that during the Obama administration Michelle worked to improve lunch quality/general nutrition. Were there any real impacts to the system/food quality? Or was it more PR than actual change?


crazymatt1

Here's my response to another similar question:

Michelle Obama brought a major focus on children's health during her tenure as first lady. the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act brought significant changes to the NSLP. The two main ones visible on students' trays are whole grains and vegetable subgroups.

All grain items served must be at least 50% whole-grain. This has lead to some interesting developments from major food companies (think whole-grain Pop-Tarts).

All lunches must now contain servings of both fruits and vegetables

Over the course of a week, schools must offer servings from each of the following subgroups:

Dark green

Red/Orange

Starchy

Beans/Peas/Legumes

Other

This has led to an increase in the variety of vegetables served to students. Edamame is a very popular choice among school lunches now!

imSeanEvansNowWeFeet

Have you ever read ‘Nudge’ by Richard Thaler? He actually talks about cafeterias and school lunches as an example of ‘choice architecture’ or more intellectually ‘liberal paternalism’.

When assigning lunches or structuring lunch programmes, have you ever felt enticed to lead students to pick the healthy options? By for example putting them front in the queue or instructing schools to do that?


crazymatt1

I think that part of the idea behind the meal pattern requirements for the NSLP are to make it so that all of the options are (at least somewhat) healthy options. Even under the offer-versus-serve model (which allows children to decline some components of the meal), children are still required to take either a fruit or a vegetable.

Ultimately, the specific choices for how to organize a lunch line are up to each individual school and aren't covered in the regulations.

Brylenort

Why can’t public schools have private food retailers on campus? Or if they can why is it not more readily adopted, when I was in high school it was understood the liability of driving to some place during lunch but almost all of us would have paid for anything other than the school lunches, even if it was only the healthy foods that were served


crazymatt1

If a school participates in the NSLP, any food served must meet the meal pattern requirements - this would include any food retailers. In addition, there are procurement regulations that may make it difficult to contract with some outside entities. In addition, it can be difficult to fit the cost of these meals within the program reimbursement rates.

Jayeezus

How did you get into your role? and how could others do the same?


crazymatt1

I had a background in food service and accounting and thought the job sounded interesting! There are many roles available in a state agency office. Most employees are directly involved in reviewing applications and performing compliance monitoring visits. In our office, several of these employees had a background in nutrition/dietetics; others just had general experience with other government programs.

Here is the list of State Agencies responsible for USDA programs. You can find yours and look for jobs!

LeGreekStallion

Where do I find the teriyaki finger steaks? I have looked everywhere since I graduated 11 years ago, but haven’t found THE TERIYAKI FINGER STEAKS


crazymatt1

Was it these?

kconnors

How political are the purchases of steady food supplies? And how low quality is the food? Is the food all American made?


crazymatt1

I'm not sure what you mean by the first part of your question, but the food is not low quality. Any food purchased by USDA is of the same quality that you'd but in a grocery store.

Schools are required to follow what's called the "Buy American provision". This means that all unprocessed agricultural commodities must be domestically grown and processed foods must be processed in the US and contain >51% domestic products.

Schools are allowed to make exceptions for products not produced domestically in sufficient quantities (e.g. bananas) or where the price difference between domestic and non-domestic products is significant.

emacked

Due to the pandemic, my understanding is that the Summer Food Service Program has been extended since March 2020.

Do you think there are any long-term learnings or potential policy implications? Or is there any one doing good research on this?


crazymatt1

I certainly hope someone is doing research on this! Extending the universal free lunches through 2022 should provide some good answers in a few areas:

  • How does program participation change under this model
  • How much more does it really cost over the traditional free/reduced-price/paid model
  • What savings (time/labor) are realized by reducing the recordkeeping burden on schools
Amsel333

Thank you for all your hard work. How do we work juice into the system for kids who don't like milk? I know they can get a doctors note if they have lactose intolerance, but what about the kids who just hate milk? (I was one)


crazymatt1

Many schools operate using what's called "offer versus serve". This allows children to take only some of the components while the school can still get credit for serving a complete meal. Milk is one of the components that can be declined, as long as you take enough of the other components.

dasheekeejones

Why are the lunches total shit? Son’s lunch in 6th grade. Cold/still frozen pancakes. Bosco sticks that leak water (not cooked enough). Odd tasting nugs. Lucky charms. Yes i said lucky fucking junk cereal charms. This is for a southwest burb in il.


crazymatt1

At the end of the day, the school still has to prepare the food. That's honestly one of the biggest places that I think would drive quality improvement - getting skilled culinary professionals into school kitchens.

I'm not sure about the Lucky Charms for lunch.

Moar_Cuddles_Please

This whole thread infuriates me. We’re one of the wealthiest nations in the world and we can’t afford to offer every child who can’t afford lunch a free lunch.

What do we have to do to change this? I want every child to be fed regardless of their parent’s ability to pay.


crazymatt1

Simple answer: Congress has to change the law.

Offering free lunches to all students for this school year and next (thanks to COVID) may provide a starting point for this discussion.

jaxpaboo

Is there a set average cost price per meal that you attempt to meet?


crazymatt1

The amount of money spent on meals is up to each individual school district. Program regulations require schools to spend all of the money they receive from the program on food service - they can't take money from the cafeteria to support other areas. Congress sets the meal reimbursement rates annually.

nick351

Why would a school privatize the lunches? We had great lunch ladies and food then it went to a private thing. All we had was pizza,burgers,and subs.


crazymatt1

There are a number of reasons that could cause a school to privatize or contract out their food service operations - labor, maintenance, physical space, etc.

Adam-Kay-

Do you mean the US National School lunch program?There’s more than one in the world.


crazymatt1

I can't update the title, but I've updated the OP to indicate that this is the US.

nevermind4790

How much food is wasted (thrown out)? Any studies on this?


crazymatt1

I'm not aware of any nationwide studies, but I'm sure there have been some at the local level.

rezqme

What makes you think the caloric intake of a 6ft tall 8th grader is similar to the almost 4 ft tall 6th graders?


crazymatt1

What makes you think I think that?

Lebo77

Is a quesadilla a sandwich?


crazymatt1

A quesadilla is likely 1 ounce equivalent of whole grain and 2 ounces of meat/meat alternate.

ScottNilsson1

Do you like the cheesy breadsticks?


crazymatt1

Bosco Sticks aren't bad!

angelerulastiel

Do you think that allotting more time for lunch would improve obesity rates and/or nutrition? For a long time I’ve felt like kids are rushed to eat and faster they eat it, the more time for friends/recess. I think that this contributes to overeating by shoveling food as fats as possible, so children don’t learn to listen to internal hunger signals. Or they may under eat because they’d rather talk to friends or get to go outside sooner. Especially if they are forcing kids in a class to eat together. The slow eater is going to get grief for holding up the rest of the class. Giving kids a longer lunchtime and not linking it to recess time seems like it would help kids regulate their intake better


crazymatt1

It's possible, but that's a decision that's up to the individual schools - USDA currently doesn't set a hard limit on the length of individual meal periods.

Kpenney

What's with all that pizza back in the early 2000s? I'm not a former us student, canadian, but was talking with my American friends last night and it's as if pizza was a decent solution back in those days. I guess my question is why was it popular choices on school menus and secondly did most programs decide to cut it instead of modifying it to be healthier?

A third question is how was your relationships with certain school catering/cafeteria companies and services I.e. Sodexo? Did you find better results then those that were run directly by school administration themselves?


crazymatt1

What's with all that pizza back in the early 2000s? I'm not a former us student, canadian, but was talking with my American friends last night and it's as if pizza was a decent solution back in those days. I guess my question is why was it popular choices on school menus and secondly did most programs decide to cut it instead of modifying it to be healthier?

Simple answer: kids like pizza. The school pizza is healthier than typical pizza and most schools still serve it!

A third question is how was your relationships with certain school catering/cafeteria companies and services I.e. Sodexo? Did you find better results then those that were run directly by school administration themselves?

Sometimes yes and sometimes no. It depends on the actual staff working at the school.

dathomar

I saw, in your post, the limitations on free lunches. What do you think it would cost to provide a free lunch and breakfast for every single student, every day?

When a kids has a lunch debt, it's not really the kids' fault (except for that one kid that forgets to drop the check off at the office). Also, some kids know who has free lunch and who pays. If every kid just walked up, got their lunch (and/or breakfast), then the schools could just report it and get reimbursed for all of it, then I'd be willing to pay some extra income tax to make that happen.


crazymatt1

I saw, in your post, the limitations on free lunches. What do you think it would cost to provide a free lunch and breakfast for every single student, every day?

I'm not sure what it would cost, but this school year and next should provide some answers.

If every kid just walked up, got their lunch (and/or breakfast), then the schools could just report it and get reimbursed for all of it, then I'd be willing to pay some extra income tax to make that happen.

Make sure you tell that to your elected representatives!

mx3goose

Ha there is a very good chance we know each other, small world. With that being said PEBT is a disaster because Condent took way more than they can handle, why did Ohio contract out to a company in Texas to handle it? Keeping all that information in Ohio and within the wheel house of JFS or TMC would have made things so much easier, it's an absolute shit show right now.


crazymatt1

I didn't do any work on the SNAP side, so I can't comment!

lizardfolk2

Right now my school is giving everyone free lunch, this just started about a month ago, even though we've been in since October. I live in a middle-high income suburb. I'd estimate that less than 10% students qualify for free lunch. Did covid allow for more funding or something?


crazymatt1

Yes. From my OP:

Schools are currently able to offer free meals to all students thanks to flexibilities and additional funding granted through various COVID relief acts.

Amsel333

One more question op. Our middle school often "runs out" of the meal planned for the day and offers other foods that fit the program. We have complained to the director, but nothing has been done. Can we go further with this complaint?


crazymatt1

You can definitely take your concerns to the district office or school board.

Substitutions can be tricky when it comes to the vegetable subgroups as well - if you didn't get lima beans and that was the only serving of beans/peas/legumes for that week, then technically they're not meeting the meal pattern requirements.

salawm

I've always wondered but have been afraid to ask - how do CEP schools prepare the right amount of food for enough students? While every child can receive free meals, some will be bringing packed lunches.


crazymatt1

Good record keeping. By tracking how many kids buy a particular meal (usually driven by the entree) they can plan pretty effectively.

Robo_Ross

Have there been substantial changes since the Regan administration and the Ketchup debacle? It seems like we're still being fairly flexible about what we consider fulfilled nutrition requirements.


crazymatt1

Yes - see some of my other responses about the HHFKA.

AntiquePangolin

Why have a school lunch program at all? Why not just give families who qualify EBT cards and let them bring their own lunches from home?


crazymatt1

As the other commenter noted, access to fresh, healthy food can be a major issue. Many people are not aware of the concept of a food desert but they can exist in areas that you wouldn't necessarily expect.

jdmdc2

Is pizza still considered a vegetable?


crazymatt1

Did you even read my original post?

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crazymatt1