Mundelein High School drops national lunch program starting Feb. 1

 
 
Updated 12/19/2014 3:49 PM

Mundelein High School is dropping out of a federal school lunch program.

The move, effective Feb. 1, should give students more food options, officials said. But it also will eliminate federal subsidies totaling about $325,000 annually.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The school board voted Tuesday to leave the National School Lunch Program, which is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Created in 1946, the program helps provide low-cost or free lunches for students in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions.

More than 31.6 million children received daily lunches through the program in the 2012 fiscal year, the most recent data available from the USDA.

According to the program website, participating schools get cash subsidies and food from the USDA for the meals. In return, they must serve lunches that meet federal government requirements, and they must offer free or reduced price lunches to eligible children.

Leaving the plan gives Mundelein High officials "total flexibility to design the food service to our students' needs," Superintendent Kevin Myers said.

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More than 2,000 students attend Mundelein High, and they purchase about 675 meals a day, business manager Andy Searle said. That's down about 6 percent from last year.

Under the school's new plan, a wellness committee will help choose what is served in the cafeteria. Students will be involved in the process, too, Myers said.

"Nutrition and good choices would also be a significant component of the wellness committee's work," he said.

Portion sizes will increase, too, Searle said. The federal standards were too small for high schoolers, he said.

Those changes should lead to a bump in lunch purchases, Searle said. That revenue will help offset the loss of the federal subsidies, he said.

Under the national plan, the school pays its food-service provider -- a company called Quest Food Management Services -- a set price for every meal sold.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In the new system, Quest will give the district a percentage of sales, Searle said. Quest will absorb the cost of free or reduced-price meals.

Mundelein High isn't the only suburban school to abandon the program in recent years.

Others include Stevenson District 125, Maine District 207 and Glenbrook District 225.

Arlington Heights-based Northwest Suburban High School District 214 left the national program at the start of the current school year. Meal purchases have increased about 20 percent from last year, officials said.

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