It is common knowledge that the fresher the food, the more expensive the cost. When new federal guidelines required schools to increase the servings of fruits and vegetables and whole grains, many wondered how they will pay for it. An extra six cents will be reimbursed for the number of meals that meets the new regulations, but the question is whether the six cents enough?
Some of the smaller, more rural districts may have a hard time financing the guidelines. Macks Creek Foodservice director, Amber Shofner, is unsure if the six cents is going to cut it. "We will have to see how it goes as it comes," she said. Shofner seems leery of it actually being beneficial, but she knows that the regulations must be met. "There is no way to work around it," she added. So far, she said the regulations simply add stress and more paperwork.
Shawndra Taylor, Eldon Foodservice director, seems optimistic about the reimbursement. "Obviously fresh fruits and vegetables are higher. It is going to help," she said of the reimbursement. The Eldon school district has been implementing the new guidelines slowly over the past few years. "We tried to make strides toward that [new guidelines] to get kids used to it," Taylor said. For her, it is all about feeding the kids a healthy meal no matter the cost.
The new regulations are focused on serving sizes. The amount of fruits, vegetables and whole grains are increased by grades. The amount of meat is decreasing. Therefore, the districts will be paying more for fruits and vegetables, but less for meat. "I think in the end, it will balance out," Taylor said.
Penny Phillips, Climax Springs Foodservice director, thinks that this year will be a trial and error year for the guidelines. "It is going to be an adjustment," Phillips said. So far, she said implementing the guidelines is going well. As far as the six cent reimbursement, Phillips thinks that they need to get through the first year to tell if it truly will be enough.
Macks Creek, Eldon and Climax Springs each have the majority of the students on free or reduced lunches. 78 percent of students in the Macks Creek district are eligible along with over 60 percent of Eldon students. Climax Springs has almost 80 percent of its students receiving free or reduced lunches. Having so many students receiving free or reduced lunches allows schools to receive more federal reimbursement, but that still may not be enough to offset the new costs.
The schools are not the only ones hit with new regulations and costs. Weather plays a role in food prices across the nation. With the drought comes higher food prices. "The whole world will be paying more for food," Taylor said. Distributors also have to make sure that the food they sell to the schools meets the regulations. That means creating new whole grain items or lower sodium choices.
Page 2 of 2 - The impact of the regulations is much bigger than what it is doing to the schools alone.