Todd Rokita wants to restrict free school lunches

Maureen Groppe and Chelsea Schneider, IndyStar Washington Bureau

There’s a food fight going on in Washington D.C.Rep. Todd Rokita has proposed a bill that would restrict access to free and reduced school meals at public schools.Rokita is focused on changing a portion of the program that allows some schools to pro Nate Chute/IndyStar

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WASHINGTON — High-poverty schools would have a harder time qualifying for federal assistance to offer free meals schoolwide under a proposal by Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Indianapolis.

The bill, which a House committee will vote on Wednesday,  would raise the share of a school’s students who must be receiving other government aid in order for the school to be eligible to provide meals to all students. Those schools would still be able to provide free meals to students who qualify on an individual basis.

Rokita said the change would target assistance to those most in need, and the savings would be redirected to other nutrition programs for school-age children. The savings would amount to about $1 billion over 10 years.

“We stick it right back into their school,” he said. “I think that’s a pretty creative way to lead on this issue without adding to our $19 trillion in debt.”

The change would affect about 120 Indiana schools — including at least 14 in Marion County — that serve nearly 58,000 students who would no longer qualify for a schoolwide free meal program, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington.

Indiana school officials using the program, known as community eligibility, said it has helped the families they serve.

“We know that there are more students that are eating, especially breakfast,” said Krista Stockman, spokeswoman for Fort Wayne Community Schools, which is feeding more than 21,000 students in schools that would have to go back to the old system under the proposed change. “It is a benefit that puts money directly back into families’ pockets.”

Sara Gasiorowski, director of child nutrition for Wayne Township Schools, with 11 schools participating in the program, said breakfast and lunch are important parts of the academic day for students.

If the program is rescinded, she said, “It would really, really be hard to go backward.”

Students qualify for free meals if their family income is less than 131 percent of the federal poverty level — about $31,800 for a family of four.

Students in families with incomes up to 185 percent of the poverty level receive meals at a reduced cost — no more than 40 cents for lunch and 30 cents for breakfast.

Students can automatically qualify for a free or reduced-price meal if their family is already receiving certain other types of government assistance, such as food stamps. Otherwise, a student’s family has to show a school their income is low enough to be eligible.

When Congress reauthorized the school meal program in 2010, lawmakers allowed schools to offer free lunches to all students if at least 40 percent of their students automatically qualified for assistance.

Rokita wants to raise that threshold to 60 percent.

“Before you get reimbursed as a school for giving everyone lunch … let’s make sure a majority of them actually qualify for it,” he said.

Although a 40 percent threshold might sound low, it refers only to students who automatically qualify for subsidized meals, said Zoe Neuberger, a senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. In schools that meet that bar, about two-thirds of the students would qualify if administrators checked household income levels.

Before the community eligibility program, about 70 percent of Fort Wayne Community Schools’ students qualified for free or reduced-price meals. But district officials think a number of other families were either close to meeting the requirements or chose not to fill out the paperwork to receive assistance.

Not having to process student applications or monitor eligibility status in the lunch line saves schools’ resources, advocates say. Per meal costs also can be cheaper through economies of scale by feeding more kids. And serving free meals to all students can remove the stigma some might feel by applying for a subsidy.

Still, not all schools that are eligible for the program use it. That could be because they won’t save enough money to offset the cost of feeding more kids, since the federal government doesn’t pick up the full cost of the meals for all participants. Or schools could still be monitoring the program, which has been available nationwide for just two years.

In Marion County, the schools now offering free lunch to all students are Vision Academy-Riverside, The Challenge Foundation Academy, Arlington in Indianapolis Public Schools and 11 Wayne Township schools, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Rokita said any extra paperwork required for schools going back to the old system would be offset with the flexibility his bill would give them on meeting the tougher nutrition standards set by the 2010 law.

About 60 percent of the more than 760,000 Indiana students who participate in a school lunch program receive a free or reduced-price meal, according to the most recent statistics available from the Food Research & Action Center.

Cynthia Hubert, president and CEO of Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, said she’s concerned about any change that could make it harder for students to get fed at school.

“If the children can’t get it there,” she said, “the charitable and private sector can’t do enough to fill that gap.”

One in seven Hoosier households was “food insecure” in the three-year period 2012-14, meaning they had difficulty at some point providing enough food for all family members, according to the Agriculture Department.

Federal spending on child nutrition programs — the largest of which are the school meal programs — has more than doubled since 1990, even after adjusting for inflation. Reasons include population growth, higher reimbursement rates to schools and policy changes.

Spending could grow an additional 26 percent in 10 years because of expected increases in food prices and demographic changes, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated last fall.

The savings from the change Rokita proposes would be spent on improving the summer meals program and increasing schools’ reimbursement rate for the breakfast program.

“When you’re getting a great deal, and you don’t have to do any paperwork for it, yeah, there may be some hesitancy to change,” he said. “But I am leading with a solution that solves a lot of their other problems. I’m just not doing it by adding to the debt.”

Neuberger, of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said it’s a “false choice to say you have to make it harder for low-income kids to get meals during the school year in order to make those improvements.”

“We can make investments in all of the programs,” she said.

Email Maureen Groppe at mgroppe@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter: @mgroppe.




New Farm to School curriculum puts high school students in charge of tapping into healthy, local foods

MINNEAPOLIS – The new Farm to School Youth Leadership Curriculum released today connects high school students with local foods and farmers, while giving them a leadership role in developing their school’s Farm to School program. The first of its type, the curriculum was developed for 11th and 12th grade students by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and takes students through the tasks of evaluating school lunch menus, partnering with food service staff, talking to farmers and sourcing local foods—all while fulfilling national and Minnesota curriculum requirements.

“The curriculum was designed not only to teach students about their local food system and connect them with farmers in their community, but also to give them the opportunity to take ownership over their school’s menu,” said IATP’s Senior Program Associate Erin McKee VanSlooten. “We know that despite the rapid growth of Farm to School programs around the country, the legwork of connecting with farmers and sourcing local foods can often be difficult for school staff on top of their day-to-day work. Our curriculum puts that work in students’ hands, while teaching them about their local food scene.”

The Farm to School Youth Leadership Curriculum is comprised of six lessons that can be taught consecutively over a semester or as single lessons or activities to complement other classes. Each lesson contains a lesson summary, facilitator preparation notes, activities, worksheets, recommended optional work and further resources for students and teachers. Lessons include themes such as “School Lunch: How Does it Really Work?” and “Communicating with Producers of Local Foods.”

Natasha Mortensen, agriculture educator and FFA advisor at Morris Area High School, helped write and develop the curriculum from activities she created for her own classroom.

“My students have taken ownership of the Farm to School program in our school, and have developed leadership and team building skills as they completed tasks in learning about our local food system and seasonal availability,” said Mortenson. “This curriculum is both about implementing Farm to School and growing young leaders that understand how to build a program from the ground up.”

Development of the Farm to School Youth Leadership Curriculum was a collaborative process, including consultation with educators, food service professionals and Farm to School experts, supported by the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, the John P. and Eleanor R. Yackel Foundation, the Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

“The Center for Prevention has a long history of investment in healthy food environments promotion, in particular the Farm to School programs across Minnesota.” said Janelle Waldock, director at the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. “Programs linking fresh fruits and vegetables to schools can have an enormous impact on student health, learning outcomes and lifelong dietary habits, not to mention positive economic impact for local economies. Empowering students to lead the program themselves, will ensure continued positive outcomes on into the next generation.”

Find the curriculum and associated resources available online at www.iatp.org/f2s-curriculum.

– See more at: http://www.iatp.org/documents/new-farm-to-school-curriculum-puts-high-school-students-in-charge-of-tapping-into-healthy-#sthash.1P7adJZV.dpuf

District Schools Highly Satisfied With Lunch Cashier System Cafeteria Software’s performance and customer support – School Food Service Directors

The Wordware mission with Lunch Cashier system for School District ‘s  is to actively contribute to the health of children, district staff, lunch cafeteria staff, students and other eligible customers by preparing, marketing and food service cafeteria software application.. Nutritious meals will be offered at a free and reduced price for eligible students while maintaining a financially accountable program.

 

Wordware Lunch Cashier system assists with your staff and parents to the new lunchroom software and is always here to help with any questions that may come up encounter while the process or after implementation Schools quickly learned how helpful our team is from the beginning and they are pleased with the technical support being provided by wordware’s experienced and dedicated technical staff. Wordware Support Team set up the software for the schools and provide training to your school staff up to the level they needed to learn the ins and outs of our school cafeteria software. From the launch of the new software, School Food Service Directors, was happy  that Wordware Lunch Cashiersystem would be an excellent fit for the children in their school.

 

“The implementation team and trainers did a great job getting us set up and ready for the first day of school,” say many of our valuable customers. Furthermore, their Staff have not encountered any problems, but they called for general questions. Customer care representative attends the phones calls promptly and guide them with confidence in using the lunchroom management software than before. They all are extremely satisfied that with the of wordware customer support team.

 

“There are many reasons why using Wordware for our lunch software has made my job easier. The remote support and ticket system have been a life saver on many occasions. The Direct Certification is simplified and the Free and Reduced timeline has kept me on track. The upgrade to the LCS1000 Mayflower has everything I need on the family dashboard for quick and easy reference. There are letter templates that can be customized by you and the numerous reporting options available are a tremendous help in documenting the daily and monthly transaction activities.” – Jean Erd, School District of Menomonee Falls

 

The Lunch Cashier System by Wordware, Inc. is a complete, affordable, user-friendly meal accounting system for schools, including back-office and point-of-sale management software. Lunch Cashier System is one of the Top Food Service Management Software. They provide comprehensive solutions to both school administration and food service staff. Computerized Lunch Program for school cafeterias, State and Federal reporting. Parents only need to send lunch money to one family account for all family members participating in the lunch program.

Cafeteria POS Systems and Point of Sale Software

Lunch Cashier System is one of the Top Food Service Management Software

Wordware, Inc takes great pride in serving food industry, Lunch Cashier System is the best food management software which has all latest features and web based application, It saves double data entry task and a single login for a Family so parents don’t need to manage multiple accounts for their kids. We are continuously adding new families, maintaining balances, reviewing payment histories – we’d like to introduce you to the people that are helping to make the LCS 1000 the best cashiering system there is!

Our K-12 Lunch Cashier System Software is a top choice for Food Service Directors nationwide, most of the schools adopting our solution for their school. All the students and school staff are happy with the solution.

Here is an Application for you school or cafeteria section, Food Service Director or Business Manager and you have to let the school board know that your food service deficit is much larger that you budgeted for, we can help you big time!

  • Savings on cost of goods
  • Reduce over production
  • Procurement/Inventory management
  • Menu forecasting with pre-costing
  • Menu pricing
  • Student sales analysis
  • Lowest Audit Failure
  • Single Family Login
  • LCS100 Web based server

Lunch Cashier System  is based on family needs while other applications are students based, they focus only on individual students. Wordware focuses on the students as they truly are: part of a family. Our software starts with the family unit, and ties all accounting for students into that family. There is no repeated data entry from one sibling to the next and you can view all of the information for a family’s  students in the same reports.

Automated E-Payment Processing – We have integrated automatic payment processing by which you can make e payment. The payment information will be transmitted from the e-payment company directly to the LCS 1000, all the payment processing done automatically in background LCS100 process payment from e payment section to payment section automatically. Everything is done in the background by the LCS 1000. All the transactions are secure so no need to worry.

Contact Wordware Inc for LCS 1000 demo