What a shock, right? Choice is a good thing.
It’s no secret that public schools participating in the National School Lunch Program often suffered from fewer choices, longer lines, wasted food, and budgetary shortfalls.
That’s exactly what Pennsylvania’s Penn-Trafford High School’s lunch program faced, until they finally decided to ditch Michelle Obama’s unpopular program, along with the federal funds attached to it, in favor of the free market.
And so far, the free market has emerged the overwhelming victor.
According to the Tribune Review, the school lunch program, in the red before, is now making money after their decision to opt out of the National School Lunch Program.
District Business Manager Brett Lago explains that while the school has indeed lost “about $40,000 worth of reimbursement,” their sales are actually up by “about $50,000 over last year.”
“The participation has gone from about 25 to 45 percent, and we’re still providing free lunches to all those students who would have been eligible under the school lunch program,” Lago told the Tribune-Review.
In the past, the mandated items based on calorie and sodium limits, especially fruits and vegetables, often found their way to the trash can. Student Brianna Lander told the Tribute-Review, “The trash cans were always full, sometimes overflowing. You don’t see that now. People would go up to the snack line and get random junk food, where now you can get an actual meal and eat it.”
The food-court-like cafeteria now contains a grill, a main course counter, pizza and a la carte stations, and even a deli and panini station.
Junior Chase Zavarella said, “You get to choose what you want instead of being sort of funneled in and only having one choice. I think everyone is happier with the new selection.”
Of the risk that students would always make poor choices or the belief that everyone needs a cookie-cutter program regardless of age, size, or sex, Lago said: “Kids at that age, they’re a little more informed and better at making smart choices for themselves because we still have a lot of healthy options. But as far as meal guidelines, you can’t say that a 300-pound football player and a 90-pound cheerleader have the same (dietary) needs on a daily basis.”
“The preliminary estimate was that we would lose up to $100,000 based on the federal reimbursement, but that was kind of the worst-case scenario if we didn’t increase sales,” Lago told the Tribune-Review. “Right now, we’re looking at breaking even at the high-school level and hopefully the rest of the district as well.”
But perhaps this statement from student Brianna Lander sums it up the best:
“People actually leave full now.”