Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sidebar: Illinois districts cope with NSLP

Two schools in Illinois made headlines by withdrawing from the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) in response to rule changes based on the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. For reasons both nutritional and financial, a few districts chose to forego federal funds and provide food service independent of oversight.

Caitlin CUSD 5 lost $30,000 under the federal plan in 2012-2013. After withdrawing from NSLP in 2013-2014, the district’s school lunch operation still lost money, but less: $28,285. In 2014, the school reported students were eating more school lunches and “happier with the menus.” Catlin is consolidating with Jamaica CUSD 12 for the 2015-2016 school year.

Township High School District 214, based in Arlington Heights, also drew attention for withdrawing from NSLP. In February 2015, the school reported running slightly behind financial projections, but that “but the administration is very pleased with the initial feedback from students and staff regarding portion size, the variety of options, and taste.”

Other schools opting out include Mundelein CHSD 120, Stevenson District 125, Maine District 207 and Glenbrook District 225.

Illinois school districts raising meal prices for 2015-2016, either to keep in line with federal requirements or due to rising costs, include Litchfield CUSD 12, Troy CCSD 30C, Naperville CUSD 203, Paxton-Buckley-Loda CUSD 10 and DeKalb CUSD 428. In addition to raising its lunch prices, Naperville CUSD 203’s school board discussed dropping out of the NSLP and may consider it in the future. Batavia USD 101 is considering a self-funded program as well, noting the potential for a financial surplus in its food service operation.

With some schools opting out of federal funding or raising their fees to match the federal lunch program costs, others are moving towards more free lunches. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) allows a school district to offer free lunch and breakfast to all students, using reimbursements based on qualifying students. Rockford will begin CEP in 2015-2106. Participating districts in Illinois include Chicago, Springfield, Peoria, Joliet, E. St. Louis, Aurora, and Champaign.