What Needs to Change About School Lunch Programs
The vast amounts of hungry children is a worldwide tragedy. It is also a national tragedy when looking at the conditions of the poverty levels among both the urban and rural communities. Something needs to change. But where do we even begin?
Sometimes, the best way to create change in the world is to create change right where we are. When considering change regarding school lunches, four facts are universal:
- All children need to be fed
- Healthy lunches enable children to reach their full potential, physically, mentally, and academically
- Schools are the central location of a community and possess the means to reach the majority of children
- Providing food costs money
All public schools are just that–public–and provided for through taxpayer dollars on both local and national levels. Every public school receives a budget of funds to provide every school program, including the school lunch program. Nationally, Congress disperses nutritional guidelines and some financial assistance for children who meet poverty standards. Funding on the local level comes from the states, school districts, and local communities.
In an ideal world, healthy foods are accessible and affordable for everyone, especially children. There are no budgetary limitations. Providing meals for children is easy because everyone agrees on the goal and the benefits.
In the real world, the struggle to feed children with consistent and nutritious meals is a constant daily challenge for schools in our communities. Still though, despite the challenges, implementing a set of improved methodologies can make sure children are not going hungry and are receiving the benefits of healthy school meals.
First, schools and communities need to face the challenges head-on and develop a holistic approach to finding solutions regarding every facet of school lunch programs and cafeteria management.
Next, the challenges need to be outlined, so all stakeholders are on the same page about what issues exist, what needs to change, and how. The details may vary from school to school and district to district but fundamentally, the solutions to meeting school lunch challenges on a budget while implementing change include:
- Ensuring cost-effectiveness in healthy meal planning–maintaining inventory control, reducing waste, adhering to nutritional guidelines, and training staff.
- Implementing safety and security measures, particularly those that reduce bullying. These measures might include cash-free environments so children can pay for meals via an account rather than cash that can be stolen or insufficient. Or, based on eligibility, students could subtly receive their free or reduced-price meals without stigma or shame. Beyond leveling the playing field for all children, these factors also provide schools with the ability to be good stewards of the taxpayer dollars.
- Easily tracking data and information which provide the clarity needed for accurate decision making from the highest levels to the smallest detail. Accurate and real-time information, and then making more informed decisions based on that data, is how problems are solved, changes are made, goals are met, and visions become a reality.
Finally, schools need to partner with a solution provider. School meals are a piece of the broader educational picture. That’s why schools need a partner who can collaboratively work towards betterment and change, not only implementing the most effective school cafeteria management systems but also demonstrating a passion for helping schools feed their students.
With more than 30 years of experience, and partnering with more than 4,000 schools nationwide, the team of industry experts at Harris School Nutrition Solutions has made helping schools to feed children their calling.
To learn more about the benefits of partnering with cafeteria management solution provider, contact Harris School Nutrition Solutions.