Opinion: Let’s move forward, not backwards, with school lunch
By Lee Yen Anderson and Yana Mohanty
Why does a top-ranked district such as the Del Mar Union School District (DMUSD) continue to serve unhealthy and over-processed food for lunch? Why are frozen, reheated corn dogs with added nitrites and waffle grahams with high fructose corn syrup still on the menu? Is it that difficult to bring healthy food to our children? We find this hard to believe.
Around the country, districts without kitchen facilities, such as DMUSD, are increasingly choosing private vendors for providing tastier and healthier school lunches. There are currently at least 20 public school districts in the state of California that have chosen vendors such as Revolution Foods, Choicelunch, Kid Chow, and smaller local establishments to serve lunch to their students.
More than half of these districts are on the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), like DMUSD. The NSLP is a government program that reimburses a school district $2.72 for each meal of a student who qualifies for a free lunch, but carries a significant administrative overhead. However, this overhead has not been an obstacle to hiring private lunch vendors for 11 districts in the state. Thus, even school districts such as Roseland in Sonoma County, with 77% of its students qualifying for free or reduced lunch, are now serving lunches made of quality ingredients, including only meats that are free of added hormones and antibiotics.
Although there has been an impression in the community that a new lunch program is out of DMUSD’s reach at this time for financial reasons, the actual facts do not support this. At the last board meeting, Superintendent Peabody stated that the bids from private vendors for serving lunch at DMUSD “came in at a price that we can work with.” Any fears of money being diverted from the General Fund to the Lunch Program are entirely baseless. That’s because the Cafeteria Fund is legally mandated to be self supporting, so that funds cannot, and will not, be taken from the General Fund. In fact, it is the current lunch program, with its low enrollment numbers, that may not remain self supporting.
We recognize that change is challenging and requires a great deal of extra effort. But isn’t this what we are teaching our children—to take on challenges in order to make progress? Isn’t it the willingness to take on challenges that defines our district and makes it so prestigious? As Michelle Obama said so aptly, “Let’s Move”; in the right direction, not the easy one.
Lee Yen Anderson is a Del Mar Heights parent and chair of the DMUSD Parent Lunch Committee
Yana Mohanty is an Ocean Air parent and co-chair of the DMUSD Parent Lunch Committee
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