Columbia schools boosting school lunch cost

Generally, at least until Eric Reuter points out a tragic flaw in the logic, I think this is a good thing:

At its monthly meeting last night, the Board of Education agreed to boost all school lunch and breakfast prices by at least 35 cents at the suggestion of Superintendent Chris Belcher.

He said he proposed the 35-cent jump as a response to the residents who have been demanding more local and healthier food in the schools.

“I keep getting pushed by the public and rightly so,” Belcher said.

School board members agreed. “One thing I hear the most about is school lunches,” board member Ines Segert said.

My one concern, since this doesn’t affect free and reduced-cost meals for low-income kids, is that local produce is great, but kids aren’t in school during the peak growing season (the reason we get out in the summer anyway). How local farmers are going to contribute to school lunches October-May is an unanswered question.

So I applaud the concept and will be interested to know about follow-through.

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Author: Scott

I am a married father of two. I graduated from Rock Bridge High School and then Mizzou before spending six years in the Washington, D.C. area. We returned to Columbia, Missouri in 2006.

3 thoughts

  1. It’s hard to argue with. I especially approve of the mechanism; directly raising the cost of lunch rather than issuing a new tax or appropriating more outside money. This more directly lays the expense on the transaction being made, and helps highlight the economics of school lunches. As some commenters on the Trib said, it’s ludicrous to complain about school lunch prices at under $3 when you can’t even get a Happy Meal for that. I also hope that mechanism helps focus the money raised on the intended result, rather than disappearing into a slush fund the way a new tax would tend to do.

    Regarding Scott’s concern, a very valid one, lots of districts around the country have found creative ways around that problem. I don’t have time to go find all the links, but I’ve read of schools that have had “preservation classes” in which whole classes or even the whole school spends a day or two making huge batches of easily preserved items like tomato sauce, lasagna, etc. from fresh local produce. This is done in the beginning of the school year (in some cases even helping harvest the ingredients), as a lead-in lesson in ag/ecology/biology/home ec, and then the cafeteria can thaw and serve the product through the rest of the year. It’ll still be tastier and healthier than the industrial alternative.

    Just as our household preserves a large percentage of our winter menu from the farm, schools and classes can take steps toward that goal as well. It’s fantastically educational, involves the kids in a real-world situation, benefits the local farmer, and so on. It does take more money and flexibilty on everyone’s part, but isn’t that what many of us want to see in our schools? Better funding and more creative pedagogy?

    Then there’s the reality that hoophouses and other methods extend the harvest well into or even throughout the winter. Pierpont supplies greens year-round now. If schools step up to the plate with funding to guarantee a contract for winter produce, current or startup farms can choose to expand to meet that demand.

    Finally, schools themselves can choose to invest in the infrastructure and effort needed to grow food. What a fantastic educational opportunity it would be for every school to have a decent-sized greenhouse in which classes of any age could participate in growing food for the cafeteria. For all the different teachers and staffers and coaches we have, why not have a “farmer” on staff, like an art or music teacher, whose job is to maintain the school’s farm and work with weekly classes to maintain it? Imagine if CACC had a related farm where students learned small-farm agricultural and marketing skills, launching them on the small-farm track the way the culinary program launches them on the restaurant track?

    Yeah, all of these things take money. We need to have the debate about the proper funding levels for schools, the proper balance of staff, and so on. But when money is really the only obstacle to this sort of program, let’s have the discussion.

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