School Lunch Program
Amphitheater National School Lunch/Breakfast Programs
Q1. What is the goal of the School Lunch/Breakfast Programs?
The goal of the programs is to provide high quality, nutritious lunches to all students in school. Eligible students receive meals free or at a reduced price. An additional goal is to keep the price low for paying students.
Q2. Who is in charge of the school lunch/breakfast programs at my child's school?
While the principal is the person responsible for the program's operations in each school, the local board of education, represented by the superintendent, makes the ultimate decisions about the program. In most school systems there is a certified school nutrition program director who supervises and coordinates the general operation of the program.
Q3. What guidelines do these administrators have?
The national school lunch/breakfast programs are governed by federal (U.S. Department of Agriculture) and state (Department of Education) regulations, as well as policies that the local board of education deems necessary.
Q4. Who plans the school menus?
They are planned in each school by a certified school nutrition program director or trained school-level managers supervised by a director or advised by a state consultant. Menus generally are planned to reflect the preferences of the school community to encourage students to eat nutritious meals.
Q5. Can schools serve any foods they want?
Menus must meet school lunch program meal pattern requirements. Meals are planned with a goal of providing students with one third of their Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for key nutrients and calories.
Q6. What are school lunch program meal pattern requirements?
Q7. What about the vegetables that are often not appealing to school-age children?
School-age children often do not like and thus do not eat many vegetables and fruits. This can lead to a deficiency in many nutrients, especially vitamins A and C. For this reason schools are required to serve fruits and vegetables rich in these two vitamins two to three times a week. Schools should serve a variety of such food items so children will be more likely to find one they will eat.
Q8. Aren't school lunches starchy?
Carbohydrates (starch) and fats are the major sources of energy in the American diet. Nutritionists recommend that Americans increase their intake of complex carbohydrates (starch) and decrease their intake of fats. Calories from complex carbohydrates such as whole grain breads and cereals, fruits, and vegetables also add fiber to the diet. Fiber is needed in a healthy diet. Schools are encouraged to limit simple carbohydrates (sugar) and replace desserts with fresh fruits. Students, however, need more calories than do adults. The teenage boy has the greatest caloric need of any human being. The meal is designed for growing students; it may provide excess calories for adults.
Q9. Are snacks such as candy and carbonated beverages available at school?
Eating these snacks instead of a balanced meal promotes poor nutrition and diet deficiencies, as well as dental caries. State and federal guidelines prohibit the sale of these items in the food service area during lunch. Local guidelines may be more restrictive.
Q10. Do schools get commodities from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)?
Yes. Commodities are allocated to or ordered by schools, depending on their availability. Commodities range from meat items, such as ground beef, chicken and cheese, to grain products, including flours and cornmeal. The only cost incurred by schools is for storage and distribution.
Q11. Are these items of good quality?
Commodities must meet very exact, high quality specifications written by USDA. In many instances they are of higher quality than is generally available in retail grocery stores. Schools annually evaluate and report to the Department of Education the USDA specifications for purchasing commodities.
Q12. How much of the commodities do schools get?
Schools are allotted a set amount of most items each year. This total generally amounts to about 10 percent of the meal cost. Schools may order additional amounts of some grain and dairy items. Commodities represent about one third of the food value per meal.
Q13. How much does it cost the school to prepare a student lunch?
The average school lunch costs about $1.92 to prepare and serve, including the value of donated commodities in the meal.
Q14. How can lunch be sold to students for a price much lower than the cost?
The school receives federal, state and sometimes local funds for every students meal it serves. This reimbursement makes up the difference between what the lunch costs to produce and what the student pays. The amount of federal reimbursement paid per lunch depends on the economic need of the student.
Q15. Are meals priced as a unit or are the food items priced separately?
A balanced meal provides essential nutrients. Omitting foods, such as vegetables and fruits, may lead to undernourishment and poor school performance. Buying the meal as a unit encourages students to accept and eat the complete meal. Meal components may be priced separately-usually more expensive. Research shows the higher the meal price the lower the number of students participating in the lunch program. Students are encouraged to choose all meal components for a balanced meal.
Q16. What qualifications do the school's nutrition staff possess?
Each school nutrition supervisor completes core training in nutrition, menu planning, quantity food preparation, purchasing and personnel and organization management. Supervisors must also continue training on a prescribed basis. All school nutrition staff members receive inservice training and other training and staff development designed by the school system. Training is based on the tasks and functions identified by the American School Food Service Association.
Q17. Why should my child buy lunch at school rather than bring it from home?
The school lunch assures that your child is receiving a nutritionally balanced meal. More variety (an established dietary guideline) is easier to achieve through school menus. Also, the subsidized school lunch is less expensive than a lunch of equal nutritional value prepared and packed at home.
Q18. Are there other advantages to my child participating in the school lunch program?
Students learn good nutrition habits that provide a basis for better health throughout their lives. School lunches contain a variety of foods and offer students exposure to new foods. The better nourished student will generally have better attendance, be more attentive and have more energy to cope with school-day opportunities.
Q19. Can I help in my child's school nutrition program?
Yes. Your child's school likes to have parents and students involved in the planning, merchandising and service of school meals, as well as in nutrition education. If you are interested in finding out more about your school's nutrition program, contact your principal or the Food Service District Director, Marc Lappitt, Ext 3783.