Illinois District May Drop Federal Lunch Program, Citing Sales Plunge

After a dramatic plunge in lunch sales of nearly 20 percent, the Downers Grove High School District is considering ditching the National School Lunch Program.

The district – some 30 miles from the home of school lunch overhaul champion Michelle Obama – finds itself with 67 percent of its students choosing alternatives to the healthier school-prepared meals required to receive federal reimbursements, which currently equal about $520,364 per year. reports:

Since 2012, the total number of lunches served daily has dropped from 2,066 to 1,706. Of the lunches served, the number of paid lunches dropped from 1,309 to 884, while the number of free lunches jumped from 607 to 716.

About 35 percent of students enrolled in the district were eating a hot lunch the past two years, after holding largely steady at 39 percent until 2013, according to figures provided by District 99 Controller Mark Staehlin at the Aug. 18 board meeting.

The drop-off coincided with the first-year federal regulations for more stringent nutrition standards changed menus substantially.

“When you go from regular hamburger buns to a wheat bun, a lot of kids don’t want that anymore,” Staehlin said.

District 99 school board member Michael Davenport called the regulations “laudable” and “great things to aspire to.”