Among the numerous proposals from the White House to fight childhood obesity is one to make school lunches more nutritious. But even if districts are willing to serve healthy food, they’re not always able. Jefferson County Public Schools can spend about one dollar for each student lunch. The district has started sourcing local foods, but can’t put natural, healthy and local food on the menu every day, because one serving of one item may take up more than 80 cents of that dollar.
“There’s just…there’s just not enough money in the school lunch program to do that,” says director of nutrition services Julia Bauscher. ”We’re still offering hamburgers and spaghetti with meat sauces and whole grain pasta, a veggie marinara that has some local or fresh produce in it. We’re still offering tacos and things like that.”
Bauscher says aside from poor funding, the district also must overcome the lack of processing facilities for local food. To have fresh produce cleaned and chopped adds to the cost per serving. The standards for school lunch nutrition are expected to change next year, and schools that comply can receive a six-cent per meal bonus…which Bauscher says won’t go very far.