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Alternatives to the School Lunch Program

Alternatives to the School Lunch Program

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    • Alternatives to the School Lunch Program: What we CAN do Prepared for Professor Chris Rubio WR 227 Technical Writing By Kathy Johnson 3 June 2012
    • Johnson 1 TABLE OF CONTENTSThesis ..............................................................................................................................3Executive Summary.........................................................................................................3Background .....................................................................................................................3 Fig. 1 Increase in Free Lunch Eligibility.......................................................................3 Fig. 2 School Lunch Eligibility ....................................................................................4Advantages ......................................................................................................................4Working Alternatives ......................................................................................................5 The Portland School District lunch program .................................................................5 Farm-to-School Programs ............................................................................................6 Private food service providers ......................................................................................6 Fig. 3 OR School Districts using Food Service Companies...........................................6Lunch Survey ..................................................................................................................8 Problems ......................................................................................................................8 Explanation of the Results ............................................................................................8 Favorites ......................................................................................................................8 Noteworthy comments .................................................................................................9Conclusions .....................................................................................................................9Recommendations ......................................................................................................... 10 What we can do now: ................................................................................................. 10 Organization activities: .............................................................................................. 10 Explore options for volunteer labor: ........................................................................... 10 Menu Ideas ................................................................................................................ 11Works Cited .................................................................................................................. 12
    • Johnson 2Interviews ...................................................................................................................... 13Tables ............................................................................................................................ 14 Table 1a – Lunch Survey Pg. 1 ................................................................................... 14 Table 1b – Lunch Survey Pg. 2 .................................................................................. 15 Table 2 – Chartwells Secondary Menu for Western Region ....................................... 15
    • Johnson 3 THESIS Improvements need to be made to the school lunch program; however, it is not enough tojust substitute one menu for another. Existing models and research can be used to identifyproblems, suggest options and work toward the goal of a total wellness program. EXECUTIVE S UMMARY It is evident that there are many concerned educators, parents and medical professionalsinvolved in this topic. There is little disagreement that something needs to be done; however,there is much discussion about how to do it. While reform of the current lunch system seems like an overwhelming task, even for adistrict the size of Sisters, much research has been done by others and working models areavailable to help. The purpose of my research is to provide a fact finding report that will help lead tochanges in the current school lunch program. I have proposed alternatives which can be used astalking points for future discussions with school administrators, the school board and thecommunity. BACKGROUND It is not surprising to see that the need for free and reduced priced meals in Oregon hasincreased over 20% since 1995 (Fig. 1). With such a large and growing number of childrenusing the services, it would irresponsible to continue on the path we’re on when so many studiespoint to long term health problems resulting from a poor diet. The schools are not responsiblefor everything, however; educational institutions have a responsibility and the opportunity toeducate in the matters of health, exercise, and nutrition as well as reading and writing. Students Eligible for Free and Reduced Meals 60.0% 55.0% 50.0% 45.0% 40.0% 35.0% Percentage of 30.0% 25.0% Students 20.0% Eligible for 15.0% 10.0% Free and… 5.0% 0.0% 2007… 2011… 1995… 1996… 1997… 1998… 1999… 2000… 2001… 2002… 2003… 2004… 2005… 2006… 2008… 2009… 2010… Fig. 1 Increase in Free Lunch Eligibility
    • Johnson 4 The following graph shows the number of students currently participating in the free orreduced price lunch program as well as those students who are not eligible. It is evident thatmany children rely on this program for lunch. We can also see that 786 children, or 65%, are notusing the program. With positive changes to the current lunch program, we could increaseparticipation. Increased participation can help offset costs of improvement and the loss ofrevenue from other sources such as vending machines. The school will receive an additional$.26 per meal above the cash price for those children who buy their lunch at full price. As a parent, I know that I would welcome the opportunity to send lunch money instead oflunch, if I was confident that it would be both nutritious and enjoyable for my children. Reduced 66 5.45% Not Eligible Eligible for Free Lunch Free Lunch Eligible for 359 Reduced Lunch 30% Not Eligible Lunch Eligibility 786 Sisters School 65% District 2011 - 2012 Total Fig. 2 School Lunch Eligibility ADVANTAGES There are numerous advantages to implementing a comprehensive wellness program forthe district. “Anecdotal reports from schools with healthful and flavorful food indicate thatteachers have started eating with students, attendance rates are higher, and fewer students fallasleep in class or commit vandalism and violence at school”. (Hinman 21). Reports also indicatehigher participation rates even among full paying students. Changing the focus from anunderfunded entitlement program to a comprehensive wellness program will meet the needs ofall students and create positive community spirit.
    • Johnson 5 In a broader sense, I envision a comprehensive wellness program that could grow andthrive in Sisters. It could become a community project which benefits local businesses as well asattracting visitors. A wellness program could be designed in ways similar to the Americana 1Project but instead of being based on music and the arts, based on health and wellness. WORKING ALTERNATIVES I have identified three working alternatives to the Sisters School District lunch program.My attention has been on research and models primarily in Oregon schools. The Portland areahas done extensive work and has been implementing a Farm to School program which integrateseducation, nutrition and food service. This is a good place to start. THE PORTLAND SCHOOL DISTRICT LUNCH PROGRAM A visit to the Portland School District’s NutritionalServices website will give you a glimpse of what they’veaccomplished. They have a very ambitious menu, acommitment “to be[ing] the most successful urban schooldistrict to educate palates, inspire culinary curiosity, andnourish the health of the community through school meals“as well as a staff of 240 to make this happen. I believe thattheir success is the result of their commitment to combining nutrition and exercise, and involvingthe children and the community in a total wellness program. The Abernathy Report, “New on the Menu” was instrumental in giving direction to thePortland Program. In 2005-2006, the Abernathy Elementary School in southeast Portlandbecame the testing ground for new food policy and practice – [it was] ‘the district’s firstintegrated program – with the garden, the classroom, and the lunchroom all supporting eachother” (3). The results of this program yielded a wealth of information and perspective givingdirection to their new program. They found answers to questions like; how much will it cost?And; Will the kids eat the food? Some of the results are what you would expect. They foundthat “food is cheap and labor is expensive”. The surprises were that participation rose by threepercent, the lunch room became a place of school pride with teachers eating in the cafeteria with 1 Local program encompassing music and art in the school and community
    • Johnson 6the children, and when the children were faced with new and unfamiliar menu items, the kidsresponded enthusiastically (9, 16). FARM-TO-SCHOOL PROGRAMS Farm to School programs are a component to a healthy lunch program. By definition,Farm to School programs encourage cooperation between schools and local food producers toprovide locally sourced food and produce to school cafeterias as well as benefit the localbusinesses. By design, farm to school programs increase consumption of fruits and vegetables aswell as connecting the cafeteria to the classroom. In addition, according to the USDA websitefarm to school relationships include farmers, ranchers, and fishermen, as well as many types oflocal food businesses. For Sisters, working on the greenhouse is a step in the right direction. Betty Izumi findsthat ‘farm to school programs are highly diverse. Programs include one-time events such asharvest festivals, ongoing programs such as school gardens, or even fundraisers that takeadvantage of locally grown products”( 335). Some suggest that choosing farm to school sources can benefit school food budgets. Ibelieve that taking advantage of seasonal availability can help, however, preparation costs canrequire more labor and therefore actually increase food costs. It is generally understood by those in the farm to school community that to be successful,a program must not only make changes to the food that is served in the cafeteria, but also backup those changes by connecting them to the classroom and community. The Farm to Schoolconcept goes beyond the purpose of providing food, accomplishing many things important to an all-inclusive wellness program. 12 Chartwells PRIVATE FOOD SERVICE 6% 23 PROVIDERS 11% Sodexo None One of the advantages of private food service providers is the ability 177 83% 221 Total to walk in and take over the whole Oregon School lunch program for a school district. Districts They will do meal planning and Fig. 3 OR School Districts using Food Service Companies
    • Johnson 7preparation within existing government guidelines, provide staffing, include nutrition education,and promote the program in an attempt to increase participation. Figure 3 shows the number ofOregon school districts contracting with food service providers. As shown, 83% of the districtsare not using these companies. One of my concerns for this option is that it is merely changingone processed lunch menu for another. Other concerns include the effect on local businessesfrom a closed campus policy (Bliss), as well as a loss or reclassification of existing schoolemployees. If the decision is made to outsource food services, it is essential that the districtcommunicate their goals to the vendor and fully understand the terms of the contract. Visitingother schools with similar programs can help the transition and to determine if this is the rightpath to take. Chartwells submitted a proposal to the Sisters School District in May 2008, however,there were unresolved issues relating to meal costs and staffing concerns. Jeffrey Vigue, theNorthwest Representive for Chartwells answered several of my general questions regarding theirprogram:  What is the cost per meal? “The cost per meal is always determined by the individual school district. Chartwells may suggest price increases but the final decision rests with the local school board.”  Is there an average increase in the number of lunches served after Chartwells becomes the provider? “It will vary from account to account but as a general rule of thumb, 10%-15% increase in participation.”  Do you know the number of school districts, similar in size, contracting with Chartwells? “Once again are you asking about similar to Sisters? In the West Region we probably have 5-6 accounts similar in size to Sisters.”  You indicated that the impact on employees and local businesses was a main concern. Are the cafeterias staffed by Chartwells employees? “In the West, ½ of our accounts are Chartwells employees (District employees that were terminated by the district and rehired by Chartwells and ½ are still district employees. In Oregon, we can only contract to do management of the district’s food service program and employees must remain on the district payroll.”
    • Johnson 8  Do you have samples of current menus? See attached (Table 2). These are our starter menus for the West Coast Schools Division and can be modified based on the specific client and their needs and space limitations. LUNCH S URVEY In an attempt to collect information from our most important consumer group, the kids, Iprepared a survey which was given to about 83 sixth graders (Table 1a & 1b). My purpose wasto get as much information as practical from the children which would help to identify their likesand dislikes, as well as their feelings about, and their participation in the cafeteria. As LelandBliss mentioned, the cafeteria habits of all grade levels are different, so this survey best describesmiddle school children’s preferences. Further surveys would be very helpful. The childrenappreciated being asked and included. PROBLEMS While examining the results, I did find problems with some of my survey questions. Thesection of the survey, choosing one or the other, was not clear to them, so I did not receive theinformation I desired. My intention was to give a choice between two different foods withsimilar nutritional values and see what they liked best. What I got was their one favorite choicefrom each column. The question asking why they didn’t eat in the cafeteria yielded many‘Other’ responses due to the fact that I didn’t include a N/A. EXPLANATION OF THE RESULTS Nearly twice as many children never eat in the cafeteria. This is consistent withdistrict’s participation graph (Fig. 2). Almost ALL the children said they like homemade lunches‘much better’. If there was a preference, cold lunches were chosen to be more popular than hot5:1. The questions about participating in the food program were mixed. You can seethe specific results below. There were quite a few ‘no’ responses. This could be because of thereputation of the cafeteria, or not knowing what would be required of them. FAVORITES The children love fruit – this was an overwhelming response.
    • Johnson 9 NOTEWORTHY COMMENTS“I would like to see good, healthy food” “[I]Would like to see good food”“Chicken nuggets bounce” “Stuff that’s real”“It is all gross” “Healthier / Organic”“By the way, the hot dogs bounce 6-7 feet” “I’ve never eaten in the cafeteria Suggestions for the Favorite School Lunch Favorite Home Meals Cafeteria Tater Tot Casserole (Top 7) Potatoes Fettuccini Alfredo Chicken Nuggets Pasta Mexican, Chinese, Italian Nothing Pizza Chef Salad Cinnamon Rolls Anything More tasty fruit Sub sandwiches Teriyaki Taco Bar Pizza Steak Baked Potatoes Mozzarella sticks Ribs Steak Tater Tots Enchiladas Grilled chicken Sandwiches Subway Sandwiches Salad Salad bar Mini-meatloaves Hamburgers Quiche …and more CONCLUSIONS Reform faces the following challenges: Limited funding, USDA red tape, lack ofadequate personnel, and the stigma associated with the school food program. However, thecurrent political and public environment appears favorable to change. Liam Julian, a researchfellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, refers to the school food program as a“behemoth” and reminds us that change does not come all at once (52). It is generally accepted that the current system is failing but not everyone agrees on howto fix it. Julian says it well when he distinguishes between the “revolutionaries” and the“incrementalists”. “Where visible and positive change on cafeteria plates has occurred it has
    • Johnson 10occurred locally with district food services directors who hope to meld the best ideas of therevolutionaries with the unglamorous work of the incrementalists (52). The research conducted by David Katz, et al. calls attention to the obvious fact thatschools are not the only source of the obesity problem. It is much more than just a schoolproblem and therefore cannot be effective by itself. Interventions by schools alone will notchange the current health crisis (25). The most effective program will we a wellness programwhere the school, community and businesses work together to provide “quality nutritioneducation and promotion, improved meals facilities, … improved physical education andphysical activity environments in addition to healthier food offerings throughout the campus.”(Woodward-Lopez, et al 2143). RECOMMENDATIONS WHAT WE CAN DO NOW:  Find out what the kids want and get them involved.  Change the stigma associated with eating in the cafeteria.  Encourage teachers and parents to eat with students.  Focus on the concept of wellness.  Make incremental changes as practical and possible.  Visit other schools working toward the same nutrition goals.  Hold community brainstorming sessions.  Start a discussion using the local paper. ORGANIZATION ACTIVITIES:  Set up a committee to review current lunch program, set goals, propose changes and follow results.  Get all the details of the current lunch meal program  Become familiar with the current and upcoming government regulations.  Research the possibility of grant opportunities from public and private sources. EXPLORE OPTIONS FOR VOLUNTEER LABOR: Enlist the help of others to help fill the increased labor needs. Possibilities include workstudy partnership with COCC and the high school, community volunteers, and the medicalcommunity. Develop partnerships with local businesses could provide special meal days, forexample Subway Fridays and rotisserie chicken from Rays.
    • Johnson 11 MENU IDEAS Begin to make menu substitutions - Roast/Rotisserie Chicken instead of chicken nuggets, Roast vegetables instead of French fries. Experiment with new ideas and suggestions. Follow with Ann Cooper’s simple “When to say No” policy against highly processed foods, trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, fried foods, refined sugars and flours (76).
    • Johnson 12 WORKS CITEDCooper, Ann. "Lunch Lessons." Educational Leadership 68.8 (2011): 75-78. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 May 2012.Gonzalez, Martin , et al. "School Wellness Policies: Perceptions, Barriers, And Needs Among School Leaders And Wellness Advocates." Journal Of School Health 80.11 (2010): 527- 535. Academic Search Premier. Web. 15 May 2012.Hinman, Kristen. "The School Lunch Wars." Wilson Quarterly 35.2 (2011): 16-21. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 May 2012.Izumi, BettyWright, D.Hamm, Michael. "Farm to School Programs: Exploring The Role Of Regionally-Based Food Distributors In Alternative Agrifood Networks." Agriculture & Human Values 27.3 (2010): 335. Associates Programs Source Plus. Web. 16 May 2012.Joshi, Anupama, and Andrea Misako Azuma. "Bearing Fruit: Farm to School Program Evaluation, Resources and Recommendations." Occidental College (2008) National Farm to School Program. Web. 26 Apr. 2012. http://departments.oxy.edu/uepi/cfj/publications/BFfullreport.pdfJulian, Liam. "Why School Lunch Is Nasty!" Policy Review 163 (2010): 43-53. Academic Search Premier. Web. 14 May 2012.Kane, Debra, et al. “The Impact of Seven Cents” Examining the Effects of a $.07 per Meal Investment on Local Economic Development, Lunch Participation Rates, and Student Preferences for Fruits and Vegetables in Two Oregon School Districts. Ecotrust. Web. 14 May 2012. http://www.ecotrust.org/farmtoschool/Kaiser-Report_FINAL_110630.pdfKatz, David L., et al. "Teaching Healthful Food Choices To Elementary School Students And Their Parents: The Nutrition Detectives™ Program." Journal Of School Health 81.1 (2011): 21-28. Academic Search Premier. Web. 14 May 2012.LaFaive, Michael D. "Mt. Pleasant Schools Taste Success with Cafeteria Privatization." Michigan Privatization Report. Mackinac Center for Public Policy, 11 June 2001. Web. 12 Apr. 2012. http://www.mackinac.org/3514.“New on the Menu: District wide changes to school food start in the kitchen at Portland’s Abernethy Elementary”. Portland Public Schools Nutrition Services, Injury Free
    • Johnson 13 Coalition for Kids, and Ecotrust. http://www.ecotrust.org/farmtoschool/Abernethy_report.pdf .Newman, ConstanceClauson, AnnetteRalston, Katherine. "Balancing Nutrition, Participation, And Cost In The National School Lunch Program." Amber Waves: The Economics Of Food, Farming, Natural Resources, & Rural America 6.4 (2008): 32. Associates Programs Source Plus. Web. 16 May 2012."Pilot Scratch Kitchen Program Earns a Passing Grade." Ecotrust. PR Newswire 10 Oct. 2006. Academic OneFile. Web. 26 Apr. 2012.Sack-Min, Joetta. "The Qutsourcing Question." American School Board Journal 195.6 (2008): 22-24. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 May 2012. McClure, Ann. "Nutritious Outsourcing." District Administration 42.10 (2006): 78. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 May 2012.United States. Dept. of Agriculture. Food and Nutrition Service. National School Lunch, Special Milk, and School Breakfast Programs, National Average Payments / Maximum Reimbursement Rates. Federal Register Vol. 76, No. 139: 43256-43257, Notices: 20 Jul. 2011. http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/Governance/notices/naps/NAPs11-12.pdf.United States. Dept. of Agriculture. Food and Nutrition Service. “Contracting with Food Service Management Companies: Guidance for School Food Authorities.” FSMC Guidance for SFAs: Apr. 2009 http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/guidance/fsmcguidance-sfa.pdfWharton, Christopher M., Michael Long, and Marlene B. Schwartz. "Changing Nutrition Standards In Schools: The Emerging Impact On School Revenue." Journal Of School Health 78.5 (2008): 245-251. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 May 2012.Woodward-Lopez, et al. "Lessons Learned From Evaluations Of Californias Statewide School Nutrition Standards." American Journal Of Public Health 100.11 (2010): 2137-2145. Academic Search Premier. Web. 15 May 2012. INTERVIEWSBliss, Leland. Operations Manager, Sisters School District. Interview. 8 May 2012.Vigue, Jeffrey. Northwest Representative, Chartwells. Phone and email. 20 Apr. 2012
    • Johnson 14 TABLES Table 1a – Lunch Survey Pg. 1 CompaniesSource: Survey Prepared by Kathy Johnson. May 2012. Print.
    • Johnson 15 Table 1b – Lunch Survey Pg. 2Source: Survey Prepared by Kathy Johnson. May 2012. Print.
    • Johnson 16 Table 2 – Chartwells Secondary Menu for Western RegionSource: Provided by Chartwells. 2012. Print.