DC Central Kitchen/flickr
Various organizations, led by the School Nutrition Association, were unhappy with my recent post, which praised a provision in the new child nutrition law that requires schools to raise the price they charge students for school lunch. A price increase, the SNA's spokeswoman Diane Pratt-Heavner said, could result in a drop in meal participation: "No one knows how severe the decline in participation will be, and that's a risky gamble to play with a program that is vital to the nutrition and well being of millions of school children."
Change can be scary. But upon further reflection, I think the objections to the law are shortsighted. The provision will, over time, bring $2.6 billion to schools to spend on school meals. More importantly, it's the right thing to do.
First, the bill doesn't require schools to immediately raise their prices all at once. Rather, it provides them with a methodology that gradually increases prices with the specific intent of avoiding price shock that would turn families away. Under the method provided in the bill, many schools may take as many as 25 years to align the prices they charge kids, who technically can afford to buy school lunch, with the amount of money the federal government pays for each meal for a low-income child.