Batavia High may drop out of federal lunch program

Updated 5/27/2015 4:57 PM

Batavia High School might soon join the list of schools nationwide that have dropped out of the National School Lunch Program due to students' dissatisfaction with the meals.

The school board will consider the idea June 23.


The matter was discussed Tuesday when the board renewed a contract -- including a 3 percent increase -- with Quest to provide meals at all schools.

Quest representatives said the number of federally reimbursed meals at the high school has declined because students are displeased with a lack of choice of what to eat and with restrictions on portion sizes, particularly that of protein items.

If the high school drops out of the program, it could serve larger lunches and would not be subject to the nutrition restrictions that were adopted as part of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The district would still offer free and reduced-priced lunches for needy children at all schools.

But Quest officials expect the district could end up making an additional $100,000 on lunches with the change, according to Kris Monn, the district's assistant director for finance.

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The national program was established in 1946 to help poor children and to use surplus government-owned food bought to support commodity prices. It is run by the Department of Agriculture.

This school year it is reimbursing Batavia 28 cents for full-price lunches, $2.52 for reduced-price lunches and $2.93 for free lunches.

Geneva schools do not participate in the national program at all, while St. Charles District 303 participates except at the two high schools.

The Batavia school board also approved an increase of 12 cents in lunch fees for elementary- and middle-school lunches to comply with a federal law about lunch price equity. Lunches will cost $2.50.

The equity requirement is meant to prevent school districts from subsidizing the lunch program on the back of the federal government. The USDA establishes a price it thinks school districts ought to be paying for the lunches and gives a district three years to meet that price. The federal reimbursement was increased in response to school officials' concerns nationwide that providing the more nutritious meals the USDA was requiring would cost the districts more.

This past year, the federal guideline said Batavia should be charging a weighted average of $2.70. Batavia's weighted average charge was $2.45. Even though Batavia still won't meet the federal standard, it will be deemed as qualifying because the USDA can't ask a district to raise lunch prices more than 10 cents a year.

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