Some things never change: School food service personnel still worry about the age-old problem of trying to get children to eat their vegetables.
But other things, such as the price of meals, do change. And if the school board approves, the cost of food in the D.C. schools will go up.
Lunches will go up 10 cents, from 50 to 60 cents for elementary school students, and from 60 to 70 cents for junior and senior high school students. Breakfasts will rise from 30 to 35 cents.
The lunches cost the city $1.70 to prepare, but most of the cost is absorbed by local and federal subsidies. The city provides lunches to about 55,600 students each day in 181 schools. About 80 percent of those children come from families whose income is low enough to qualify them for free meals.
According to food services Director Julius Jacobs, his department will lose about $750,000 this year due to cuts in the federal school lunch program. However, he said, the proposed 10-cent increase will not compensate for the loss of funds; the city will absorb some of the cost of the program.
Jacobs said the biggest single complaint about the lunch program is that students don't like the meals. In response, Head Nutritionist Lilly Brown said, "Feeding food, being such an individual thing, no matter what you serve, you won't please everyone."
Brown said finger foods like hotdogs, hamburgers, fried chicken, corn on the cob and french fries, and desserts and fruit are the most popular items. Some children will eat salads, but most still shun cooked vegetables.
Brown said since the District has a widespread ethnic mix, school cafeterias are encouraged to alter their recipes when possible to suit the different cultural tastes of their students.
Menus for 15 basic meals are made up for the schools at the beginning of each year so that food can be purchased. The meals must meet federal standards that require two ounces of protein, three-fourths of a cup of fruit or vegetable; a serving of bread and one-half a pint of milk. Items like dessert, butter and condiments are extra.
The meals range in calorie content from 1,700 to 2,700 calories, so in most cases they provide nearly a day's worth of calories recommended by the Food and Drug Administration. Many schools also provide an extensive breakfast menu for 30 cents for children who get up early enough to eat before class.
Students can look forward to these sample meals in the near future: Chicken with a slice of bread or a tuna sandwich; vegetable soup, corn, a fresh orange, french fries, milk and a piece of cake. On another day, they might be offered fried fish or fish Newburg with cheese, or grilled cheese sandwiches plus chicken soup, a slice of tomato, lima beans and rice, milk and a banana.