School Lunch Funding Decreases Amidst Pandemic

Posted on December 2, 2020 by


Only a quarter of students are eating lunch from the cafeteria this year; even fewer are eating breakfast.

Even though the school lunches and breakfasts are free, only a quarter of kids are getting lunch from the cafeteria, which lowers the USDA funding to be able to provide these meals because they do not receive money from the school district itself.

This year, the USDA provided more reimbursement for free meals due to COVID, giving an “allowance” to spend on purchasing foods based on the previous years’ meal counts. The reimbursement money goes into the program to purchase foods, repair equipment, pay salaries, and buy cleaning supplies and paper goods because the food service program is a business on its own within the school district. This means the cafeteria does not receive financial help from the district and has to support itself by selling meals and a la carte to pay all bills associated with the foodservice department. 

“I find that when I speak with some parents, they have no idea that the meals are free, and others do not realize that they can order meals for when the kids are at home,” Food Service Director Jennifer Wilinsky said.

This year, there are fewer students getting food from the cafeteria, which affects how much money the department gets. The amount of money it gets depends solely on the number of people who get full meals, not a la carte, from the cafeteria.

“I think more people pack because it provides a sense of safety against COVID, and scanning a card may seem daunting to some,” Megan Brattley, a junior who packs lunch daily, said.

While Brattley is aware of the free lunches, she prefers to pack in order to eat in her classes throughout the day. On the other hand, junior Connor Ammon prefers to get the school’s lunch due to the convenience of not having to carry around a lunchbox. Many students dislike the socially distanced lunchroom: it is quieter than last year and more difficult to socialize with friends. 

This year’s menu isn’t as varied as last year’s because Wilinsky has to curb some of her ideas due to COVID; however, a few of her menu items stand out this year. 

“I really like the Italian subs for the cold meal,” Ammon said. “And the pizzas are pretty good too.”

Because funding for the cafeteria relies solely on the number of students who get free food, Wilinsky urges everyone to try the cafeteria’s complimentary offerings.

Posted in: Madeline Ammon