June 28, 2022

Popular student lunch option off the menu

The upcoming school year brings many changes to the food program in Creston. With last month’s announcement of free lunches ending, this month brings its own news. The popular option, a la carte, has been cut for a multitude of reasons.

The decision, made at a food services meeting Monday, came down to cost, labor and the lack of nutritious options.

Creston High School senior Caylee Flynn said a la carte is additional items students can purchase with money from their lunch account. “You go up to the concession stand where they have for the games,” she said. “They’re usually like $1 or $2. Not expensive.”

Superintendent Deron Stender said after looking at the budgets on Monday, it was clear they are losing money on a la carte. “That actually went down significantly because of the free meals. Kids were eating more meals instead of going to the a la carte in the last two years,” he said at the Creston School Board meeting Monday night. “But even back before we had free meals, a la carte was still losing money.”

Board member Sharon Snodgrass questioned why the district is losing money on shelf-stable foods when they shouldn’t be going to waste. Stender said it is simply the price point. “We’re selling it for less than we’re probably paying for it,” he said. “You figure in the labor and the person to manage all that and pulling them away from the kitchen.”

Staffing is a major reason behind the change. Stender said the school is down three food service positions, and they simply can’t staff a la carte. “Especially this year, since it was free the last two years, we didn’t have a person at the point of sale taking numbers and making sure kids are coming through the line and being accountable for that so we have to fill that position,” he said.

Flynn said a la carte is what all her friends use. “The lines are super long,” she said. “Probably the same as the line for meals, honestly.”

Board member Galen Zumbach supported the removal of a la carte from the schools. “That’s not healthy food,” he said. “Personally, I would like to see a la carte not exist.”

Even though meals were free for the last two years, a la carte items still had to be purchased. “Yeah, it’s probably not healthy because they go to that and don’t get lunch,” Flynn said. “They have little snack items like string cheese or mozzarella sticks.”

Student breakfast will be $2 this year and lunch $3. Stender said over the last two years, 90% of students were getting breakfast and lunch, but the data is skewed from the meals being free.

“I hate that we have to charge people this year,” Snodgrass said.

With meal costs coming back this year and a la carte ending, Flynn said she thinks more people will go home for lunch instead. “Everyone will be mad,” she said. “People will start leaving for lunch or bringing their own lunch because the social idea is that school lunch is gross.”

Cheyenne Roche

CHEYENNE ROCHE

Originally from Wisconsin, Cheyenne has a journalism and political science degree from UW-Eau Claire and a passion for reading and learning. She lives in Creston with her husband and their two little dogs.