St. Ignatius High School, a private Jesuit school for young men in Cleveland, withdrew from the National School Lunch Program this year in order to go “above and beyond” the federal standards.
Chris Rini writes in the St. Ignatius school newspaper:
In a typical school cafeteria, the norm is to meet all governmental requirements and restrictions while still providing some decent food. However, Campus Dining, led by [John] Pietravoia, has decided to go above and beyond that standard. In fact, this year, for the first time, Saint Ignatius has gone off of the federally funded National School Lunch Program, which means that campus dining is able to serve what they wish in our cafeteria without having to purchase frozen and processed products. In other words, campus dining is spending more time and money to give students better-tasting, higher quality, and healthier eats.
The $14,300 per year private school, which serves around 1500 students (some of whom attend through the Cleveland school voucher program), is known for high academic standards — 99% of the school’s students attend a 4-year college after graduation. Students at the school in Cleveland’s historic Ohio City neighborhood complained last year about federally mandated price increases on school lunches. “This mandate, contrary to what one might expect as gas prices are rising, is the only reason for the price hike midway through the year,” the school paper reported last year. Pietravoia said it was the first time in his seventeen years at the school that there has been a mandatory price increase.
Pietravoia said that leaving the federal school lunch program will give students — the customers — more choices. “I believe the customer has a right to make a choice,” he said.
Now students can look forward to a menu that includes a Chipotle-style burrito bar featuring healthy burritos made with all natural, local ingredients. The burrito bar will serve subs once a week and students can enjoy a caffeine-free, vitamin-enriched Monster with their burritos or subs. The cafeteria will also serve pizza on traditional white crust and a “Riche burger,” made from antibiotic- and hormone-free hamburger produced locally. Pesticide-free salad ingredients will also come from local farms and the school’s “famous” clam chowder will be served every Friday.
“We’re keeping our standards very high for local sustainability; pesticide-, hormone-, antibiotic-free products, healthy choices, and good food,” said Pietravoia.
Schools participating in the National School Lunch program are subsidized by the federal government for lunches provided to students at participating schools. They receive $2.93 and $2.53 for free and reduced lunches respectively and $0.28 for each lunch sold at full price. First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled new standards for school meals last year as part of her Let’s Move! campaign. The mandates were signed into law by President Obama and include reducing the calorie counts in school lunches as well as trans fats, saturated fats, and sodium, while increasing whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in the meals. Schools that have menus in compliance with the updated program meal requirements receive an additional six cents of federal cash reimbursement for each meal served.