School Lunch Facts

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting story about businesses trying to expand their revenues by packaging food sales in the school lunch program. (“Wake-Up Call: Entrepreneur Finds Millions Left on Breakfast Table“)

Here are a few facts from the article:

* Free food in peace came from a need in war: “Federal support for school meals dates back to the Depression, when surplus farm commodities were funneled to schools for lunch. Congress formally established the lunch program in 1946 as a matter of national security after the military complained too many World War II draftees were being sent home suffering the effects of poor childhood nutrition.”

* More students received a free or discounted meal than paid full price: “In the 2004-05 school year, 17 million children ate free or reduced-price lunches, while another 12 million paid full price. Only 7.5 million children ate free or reduced-price breakfast, with 1.7 million paying full price.”

* But even “full-price” students are subsidized: “Last school year, in most cases, the government reimbursed schools $1.27 for each free breakfast served; 97 cents for each reduced-price meal, and 23 cents for each fully paid one. The reimbursements are to cover the cost of food, and help with the cost of cafeteria staff and equipment.”
* “During the 2004-05 school year, total federal school breakfast reimbursements were about $1.9 billion, compared to $7 billion for lunch.”

* There are a lot of meals for which students are eligible under law, but which are not being served: “If all students who ate school lunch also ate breakfast, federal breakfast reimbursement would have soared to $3.84 billion, the group says — meaning nearly $2 billion went unused.”

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