Nutrition carries hefty price tag for D202

Sara Peck

Part-skim mozzarella, whole grains and low-fat yogurt are not healthy for the district’s budget, school board members learned at the District 202 meeting Monday night.

Meghan Gibbons, director of nutrition services for the district, gave a nutrition update to board members, emphasizing the healthy, yet expensive, changes made to school lunch menus at the high school and elementary levels. The districts run a deficit for each meal sold, which is slightly less than $1 for Evanston Township High School students.

“I dare you to make a healthy meal with whole grains and fruits for 94 cents,” Gibbons said, referring to the per-meal food cost, which does not include labor and packaging.

The $2 million annual budget is “really maxed out,” Gibbons said. But students and the Parent Teacher Association are calling for more changes such as vegan meals and the abolition of high fructose corn syrup.

More students are now receiving free or reduced lunch, Gibbons said, and the district operates on a 10 percent higher food budget than most districts. Fifty percent of the meal cost goes directly to food because of the district’s decision to use exclusively name-brand products and “nutritionally dense” meals. Recent changes such as brown rice, fresh fruits and more vegetables cost more than their high-calorie counterparts, Gibbons said.

“We are already on a strained budget,” she said. “There is no additional funding.”

ETHS did receive two nutrition-related grants totalling $5,000, but this makes only a small dent in the cost of the more than 206,400 meals served annually at the school, Gibbons said.

“It’s a scary thing: the rising costs, decreasing