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N.J. Employees Lie for Free School Lunch Program

N.J. Employees Lie for Free School Lunch Program


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100 New Jersey citizens received criminal charges after making fraudulent claims to free school lunches

Recently, 100 New Jersey public employees were committed fraud to secure their children free school lunches.

In New Jersey, lying to get your child a free school lunch may leave you facing criminal fraud charges.

Recently, 100 individuals, 83 of whom were public employees, were caught lying about their incomes in order to secure their children a free school lunch. The New Jersey Office of the State Comptroller (OSC), an office responsible for supervising the quality of financial reporting for given organizations, documented the alleged fraud while investigating the free lunch programs over a three-year span.

As part of the USDA’s National School Lunch program, New Jersey schools provide either free or reduced-price meals to students in need, based on their parent or guardian’s reported income. The OSC stated that parents were made aware when signing up for the free lunches that giving false information could result in criminal penalties.

The combined underreported income over the past three years has totaled to more than $13 million, forcing the OCS to refer the 100 guilty individuals to the Division of Criminal Justice for prosecution.

Certain individuals are not taking the fraudulent charges without a fight. One school board member from Pleasantville who was found underreporting her household income by nearly $180,000 became defensive when questioned by the comptrollers, claiming that her income was “none of the school district’s…business.”

Governor Chris Christie calls the OSC report’s findings “absurd and obscene,” and called for the immediate dismissal and prosecution of the culpable employees.


School Meal Eligibility and Reimbursements

FRAC’s report on participation data in the Afterschool Nutrition Programs measures how many children had access to afterschool suppers and snacks in October 2018, nationally and in each state.

Register here for the October 23 webinar on the report.

Watch the October 10 Breakfast Matters Webinar: Reducing Barriers to School Meals Consumption

Watch this webinar (password – Mealbarriers2019) to hear school districts highlight their best practices for reducing barriers that allow their students to consume a balanced school meal.

Any student attending a school that participates in the National School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program can receive a meal. Children from low-income families are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. Participating schools receive federal funds for each breakfast and lunch served. See school breakfast and lunch reimbursement rates for this school year.

Who is Eligible for Free and Reduced-Price School Meals?

  • Children in households with incomes at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for free school meals.
  • Children in households with incomes between 130 to 185 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for reduced-price school meals and can be charged no more than 30 cents for breakfast and 40 cents for lunch.
  • Children in households participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations as well as foster youth, migrant, homeless, or runaway youth, and Head Start participants are “categorically eligible” for free school meals.
  • Children from families with incomes above 185 percent of the federal poverty level may purchase a “paid meal.” Prices for paid meals are set by each school district.

Children can be certified for free and reduced-price school meals based on household income via a school meal application or can be certified without an application based on participation in other means-tested government programs.

Certifying Low-Income Children for Free & Reduced-Price Meals

Some categorically eligible children may be missed in this process, requiring the household to submit a School Meals application. For children receiving SNAP, TANF or FDPIR, the household need only complete the following parts of the application:

  • child’s name
  • SNAP, FDPIR, and/or TANF case number for someone in the household and
  • signature of an adult household member — the adult’s Social Security number is NOT required.

Requests on the application for ANY other information are strictly optional.

Nineteen states utilize Medicaid household income data to directly certify eligible children. Find out more.

In the past, school districts collected paper applications from families, however, many districts have moved to offering online applications.

Applications may only require the information necessary for a school to make an eligibility determination including:

  • the names of all household members
  • the amount and source of income each member received in the previous month
  • the signature of an adult household member and
  • the last 4 digits of the Social Security number of the adult household member who signs the application, OR if the adult does not have a Social Security number, s/he must write “NONE” in that space or check the box, “I do not have a Social Security number,” if provided. It cannot be left blank.

Requests on the application for ANY other information are strictly optional.

The child’s school then compares the household size and total income to the Federal Income Eligibility Guidelines, which determine who is eligible for free and reduced-price meals. Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the poverty level are eligible for free meals. Those with incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level are eligible for reduced-price meals.


Trump's School Lunch Changes Lead to a Pointless Food Fight

In January, President Donald Trump's administration announced changes to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National School Lunch Program, which was previously overhauled by former first lady Michelle Obama.

"The Occupant is trying to play petty with the food our babies eat," tweeted Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D–Mass.) in response to the changes. "Add it to the list affirming that the cruelty is the point with this White House."

Sam Kass, who served as executive director of Obama's Let's Move! obesity reduction program, proclaimed to The New York Times, "It's unconscionable that the Trump administration would do the bidding of the potato and junk food industries."

In truth, Trump's changes are relatively minor. They allow participating schools to more easily serve a la carte items, such as hamburgers, as snacks they reduce the amount of fruit required at breakfast and they change the types of vegetables required at lunch. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue says these changes were made at the behest of school districts and could reduce food waste.

What's more, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 that Democrats say Trump is undermining wasn't exactly built on flawless nutritional science. It required participating schools to serve low-fat or nonfat milk instead of whole milk, despite scant evidence that whole milk leads to weight gain. Complying with the fruit requirement sometimes saw schools giving low-income children two whole bananas with breakfast, despite the fact that starchy carbs are cheap and readily available to low-income households, while high-quality proteins are harder to afford for families relying on assistance.

The National School Lunch Program dates back to 1946 and is intended to make it easy for schools to feed their poorest students. Though Obama's changes sounded good on the surface, they may have contributed to a decline in participation in the program, which peaked in 2011 and has been dropping ever since. Strict school lunch requirements are futile if kids don't end up eating what's offered—something this administration aims to fix.

While you won't hear this from either side, the continued federalization of subsidized lunch is probably a bad idea. Washington has a long history of publishing unscientific and outdated nutrition science, and it takes years to revise itself. While many school districts may, in fact, need financial help to feed their poorest students, making that money contingent on adhering to federal menus is a recipe for conflict and political point-scoring rather than serious policymaking.


The Former Noma Chef Taking Over School Cafeterias

Welcome to Doing It Right, a column where Eater meets chefs, restaurateurs, and entrepreneurs who recognize challenges in their communities — and are actually doing something about it. In this installment, we head to New London, Connecticut to focus on the work of Brigaid.

The challenge:

Although national nutrition guidelines aim to ensure healthy school lunches for all students, some school districts lack the resources to serve nutritious food that kids want to eat.

What Brigaid is doing about it:

Chef Dan Giusti’s company puts chefs in school kitchens to cook lunches entirely from scratch, and as Brigaid’s chefs create recipes alongside existing cafeteria staff, they make better use of school kitchens and change perceptions of the school cafeteria worker.

Just a few years ago Dan Giusti was cooking at one of the world’s best restaurants. He was the chef de cuisine at Noma, serving 45 people a night at the Copenhagen dining destination. But when he started thinking about next steps, opening his own fine dining institution was never a consideration. Giusti wanted to feed people — lots of people. “You can really affect somebody’s life if you’re cooking for them every day,” he says.

Like many chefs with that inclination, his first instinct was to open a fast-food restaurant, but it felt irresponsible to build new restaurants to feed “millions of people” when there are already so many out there. And so he decided to take his skills to an existing institution — the American public school system. “There’s all this food being made already,” he says. “Why not just make it better?”

In 2015, Giusti announced his intentions to reform school lunches with an article in the Washington Post, promising to put chefs in schools to cook lunches from scratch. And last year, he launched Brigaid in New London, Connecticut, a coastal city with a population of just over 27,000 and a 28.2 percent poverty rate. “[Then-superintendent Manuel Rivera] got it,” Giusti says. “He knew right away that this was a big deal, like if we were going to do this, it’s gonna take money, it’s gonna take buy-in from all the community.”

Samantha Wilson, New London public schools’ child nutrition program manager, worked closely with Giusti to implement the program in New London’s six public schools, including elementary, middle, and high schools. Before Brigaid, the schools handled food service internally, and although kitchen staff prepared some recipes from scratch, Wilson estimates that around 75 percent of meals involved processed food. Now, all school lunches are made from scratch and there’s a trained chef in every cafeteria to develop recipes and introduce new ingredients — in its first year, the New London students were served fresh fish for the first time.

Here’s how it works: Brigaid recruits chefs, who then become employees of the school district. Each Brigaid chef leads the school cafeteria staff in the transition to from-scratch cooking. In addition to overseeing the kitchen staff, the job requires interacting with school administration and the students to figure out what works. Together with Giusti, the chefs create recipes that fit within the National School Lunch Program’s cost and nutrition guidelines — not an easy feat. “I always equate it to speaking a foreign language,” he says. “When you learn a foreign language and you have to translate ahead every time, you can’t be very well versed in it. When you think in that language, that’s when you can be proficient. Same thing with cooking.”

While the USDA determines National School Lunch Program school nutrition requirements, it’s up to individual school districts to decide how to fulfill them. Some schools form purchasing cooperatives, while others contract individually with vendors and distributors or food-service management companies, like Aramark. Increasingly, schools are finding ways to incorporate local produce into school lunches: 42 percent of public school districts participate in “farm to school activities,” which may include serving local food in the cafeteria or leading a field trip to a local farm, and a number of companies and school districts are taking part in the scratch cooking movement. The guidelines and budget ($3.31 per New London student for the 2017 school year) come first during recipe creation. But chefs must also think about how to scale the recipe and how to make it palatable to kids. Unsurprisingly, it hasn’t been easy to find chefs to sign up for the gig.

Brigaid chefs have to put their egos aside in service of an extremely picky customer. Plus, they must adapt to a new kitchen culture. At Brigaid, a certain degree of professionalism is required, not just because of the school environment, but because Brigaid chefs are trying to enforce real change with existing cafeteria staff, school administration, and students. “We are looking for motivated people. We’re trying to make a pretty big cultural shift in food,” Giusti says.

In the coming year, Giusti hopes to work with local farmers to source fruits and vegetables. Wilson notes that getting 3,000 kids to sign on to certain foods is likely to be a slow process. “The idea is to expose them to foods when they’re really young so they don’t have preconceived aversions or preconceived notions about foods they like or they don’t like,” he says. “You see a lot of success in the younger kids and as they start to come up through the grades.”

Brigaid is a private company, not a nonprofit (Giusti wanted to execute his vision for the company without the input of a board, and feared spending much of his time doing fundraising). He compares the way it works to a consulting agreement. The school district agrees to pay the chefs a certain salary and pays Brigaid an annual fee. The program aims to be financially self-sustaining for the school’s food-service department. Giusti says the switch from processed to raw ingredients saves the schools some money, and schools can use their kitchens to produce additional revenue through catering, either at school events or for the wider community.

New London was just the beginning for Brigaid. At the start of the 2018 school year, Giusti launched a pilot program at Morris High School in the Bronx. And as soon as the new system is operating smoothly there, Brigaid will roll out in five other schools in the same district.

For their first Brigaid lunch at Morris, students were offered meatloaf with mashed potatoes and kale chips. Giusti says that, anecdotally, the high school students seem to appreciate the change, but to prove that the program is worth it, Brigaid will need to track how students are participating in the program. “We need to be able to show that more kids are going to eat [school] food now because they really enjoy it,” he says. “We really need to start to get some numbers that back up this kind of change.”

It’s not the only challenge facing Brigaid. The existing school cafeteria staff must also fully embrace change. “The biggest challenge is about making sure that we’re doing things in a way where the staff says happy,” Giusti says. “You’re making this big transition where essentially you are adding on work.” To make the transition easy for the staff and the Brigaid chef who is doing this job for the first time, the lunch menus in the Bronx school are simpler than the menus in New London. Although the new lunch service system isn’t yet seamless, the change will ultimately pay off. “That implementation is going to set things up for scalability and future success across the district,” Giusti says.

To work, Brigaid must please a long list of customers, from the school district to the cafeteria staff to the students. In New York City, there are more stakeholders — hundreds of people on the administrative team oversee the lunch service program in the Bronx, compared to New London’s two, according to Giusti — but, three years in at New London schools, Brigaid is working. “The beauty of our relationship is you have two very specific and unique sets of expertise and knowledge,” says child nutrition program manager Wilson. “I don’t pretend to know the ins and outs and the finer points of recipe development and cooking, but I’m very well-versed about USDA regulations and district guidelines. We really weave all of our strengths in all those spaces together.”

And as Brigaid’s chefs change the recipes for school lunches, the company is also working to change how people think about the school cafeteria. “When we were in school, and when people were in school 100 years ago, the lunch lady was always the bottom of the barrel in the hierarchy of the school, which is ridiculous,” Giusti says. “It’s treated that way from the budgets downward. [Brigaid is] trying to change that whole thing.”


USDA Recipes for Schools


Alphabetical by Recipe Name

These updated recipes from the 1988 Quantity Recipes for School Food Service and the 1995 Tool Kit for Healthy School Meals reflect the changes made in the Food Buying Guide for Child Nutrition Programs. Revised recipes have been standardized, edited for consistency, and updated with Critical Control Point (CCP) information from the 2003 Food Code supplement. The recipes are available online from ICN, Healthy School Meals Resource System, and Team Nutrition. The recipes are also available on CD-ROM by request from USDA/FNS. http://teamnutrition.usda.gov/Resources/usda_recipes.html

Also, included are the new Recipes for Healthy Kids (R4HK). The 30 recipes from the R4HK competition are credited to support the whole grain-rich, red/orange, dark green, and beans/peas (legumes) vegetable subgroups for the meal patterns as part of the Nutrition Standards in School Meal Programs. The 30 kid-approved recipes are designated with an “r” at the end of the recipe number. Find these recipes in the Team Nutrition Resource Library: http://www.fns.usda.gov/tn/recipes-healthy-kids-cookbook-child-care-centers-0
Food safety information is based on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 2001 Food Code as supplemented in 2003. The 2003 Food Code supplement dropped the hot holding temperature from 140 °F to 135 °F. Always check your State or local health codes to determine if they are more restrictive.
Funding for this project was provided by USDA/FNS through a cooperative agreement with ICN.
PDF Files These files require Adobe Acrobat Reader software. Click here to download the free software.
View Recipes Booklet.
Download Recipe Template (Word®) — template similar to the format of USDA recipes available for use in standardizing local recipes.

A-B | C-F | G-M | N-P | Q-Z
All recipes listed alphabetically | USDA Recipes for Schools Numerical
Apple Cobbler (updated March 2006)
Apple Crisp
Apple-Honey Crisp
Applesauce Cake
Arroz con Queso (Rice with Cheese)
Aztec Grain Salad (2013)
Baked Beans (Using Canned Vegetarian Beans)
Baked Cajun Fish
Baked Fish Scandia
Baked French Toast Strips
Baked Sweet Potatoes and Apples
Baking Powder Biscuits
Banana Bread Squares
Barbecued Beef or Pork on Roll (Using Canned Meats)
Barbecued Chicken
Barbeque Sauce
Bean Burrito (updated March 2006)
Bean Soup
Bean Taco
Beef and Bean Tamale Pie
Beef or Pork Burrito (updated March 2006)
Beef or Pork Burrito (Using Canned Meats)
Beef or Pork Taco
Beef or Pork Taco (Using Canned Meats)
Beef Shepherds Pie
Beef Stew
Beef Stir-Fry
Beef Taco Pie
Beef Tamale Pie
Beef Vegetable Soup
Bok Choy Wrappers (2013)
Bottom Pastry Crust (Sheet Pans)
Bread Stuffing
Breakfast Burrito with Salsa
Broccoli Salad
Broccoli, Cheese, and Rice Casserole
Brown Bread
Brown Gravy
Brown Rice Pilaf
Brownie Icing
Brownies
Carrot Cake
Carrot-Raisin Salad (updated March 2006)
Central Valley Harvest Bake (2013)
Cheese Sauce
Cherry Cobbler (updated March 2006)
Cherry Crisp
Chic’ Penne (2013)
Chicken Alfredo with a Twist (2013)
Chicken Curry Casserole (2013)
Chicken Fajitas
Chicken or Turkey a la King
Chicken or Turkey and Noodles
Chicken or Turkey Chop Suey
Chicken or Turkey Gravy
Chicken or Turkey Noodle Soup
Chicken or Turkey Pot Pie
Chicken or Turkey Rice Soup
Chicken or Turkey Salad
Chicken or Turkey Taco
Chicken or Turkey Tamale Pie
Chicken or Turkey Vegetable Soup
Chicken Stir-Fry
Chicken Tetrazzini
Chicken Tomato Bake
Chili con Carne with Beans
Chinese Style Vegetables
Chocolate Cake
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chocolate Glaze
Chocoleana Cake (updated March 2006)
Cinnamon Rolls
Clear Dressing
Confetti Soup (2013)
Cooking Macaroni, Noodles, and Spaghetti
Cooking Rice (Oven or Steamer)
Corn and Green Bean Casserole
Corn Pudding
Cornbread (updated January 2007)
Cornbread Stuffing
Country Fried Steak
Cream Gravy
Cream of Chicken Soup
Cream of Vegetable Soup
Creamy Cole Slaw
Creamy Dip for Fresh Vegetables
Crunchy Hawaiian Chicken Wrap (2013)
Cucumber Sauce
Eagle Pizza (2013)
Egg Salad Sandwich
Fiesta Mexican Lasagna (2013)
Fiesta Wrap (2013)
French Dressing
Fried Rice
Gingerbread
Granola
Green Beans in Cheese Sauce
Ground Beef and Macaroni (With Mexican Seasoning)
Ground Beef and Spanish Rice
Ground Beef Stroganoff
Harvest Delight (2013)
Harvest Stew (2013)
Herbed Broccoli and Cauliflower Polonaise
Honey Barbecue Sauce
Honey Dressing
Honey-Lemon Chicken
Hummus (updated March 2006)
Italian Bread
Italian Dressing
Italian Seasoning Mix
Lasagna with Ground Beef (updated January 2007)
Lasagna with Ground Pork and Ground Beef
Lentils of the Southwest (2013)
Macaroni and Cheese
Macaroni Salad
Marinated Black Bean Salad
Master Mix
Meat Loaf
Meat Balls
Mediterranean Quinoa Salad (2013)
Mexicali Corn
Mexican Seasoning Mix
Minestrone
Muffin Squares
Nacho Cheese Sauce
Nachos with Ground Beef
New Italian Dressing
New Macaroni and Cheese (updated January 2007)
New Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (updated March 2006)
New Spice Cake
Oatmeal Cookies (updated January 2007)
Oatmeal Muffin Squares
Oodles of Noodles (2013)
Orange Glaze (updated March 2006)
Orange Glazed Carrots
Orange Glazed Sweet Potatoes
Orange Rice Pilaf
Orange Rice Pudding
Orange-Pineapple Gelatin (updated March 2006)
Oven Fried Chicken
Pancakes
Pasta Salad (updated March 2006)
Peach Cobbler (updated March 2006)
Peanut Butter Bars
Peanut Butter Cookies
Peanut Butter Glaze
Peppy Quinoa (2013)
Pizza Crust
Pizza with Cheese Topping
Pizza with Ground Beef Topping
Pizza with Ground Pork Topping
Pizzaburger on Roll
Porcupine Slides (2013)
Pork Stir-Fry (updated March 2006)
Potato Salad
Potatoes Au Gratin (Using Dehydrated Sliced Potatoes)
Pourable Pizza Crust
Preparing Instant Mashed Potatoes
Purple Power Bean Wrap (2013)
Quiche with Self-Forming Crust
Quick Baked Potatoes
Rainbow Rice (2013)
Ranch Dressing
Refried Beans (updated January 2007)
Rice Pudding
Rice-Vegetable Casserole
Roasted Fish Crispy Slaw Wrap (2013)
Rolls (Yeast)
Royal Brownies (updated March 2006)
Salisbury Steak
Scalloped Potatoes (Using Fresh Potatoes)
Scalloped Potatoes (Using Dehydrated Sliced Potatoes)
Scrambled Eggs
Sloppy Joe on Roll
Smokin’ Powerhouse Chili (2013)
Spaghetti and Meat Sauce(updated January 2007)
Spaghetti and Meat Sauce (Ground Beef and Ground Pork) (updated March 2006)
Spanish Chickpea Stew (2013)
Spanish Rice
Spice Cake
Spice Icing
Spiced Apple Topping
Squish Squash Lasagna (2013)
Stir-Fried Green Rice, Eggs and Ham (2013)
Stir-Fry Fajita Chicken, Squash, and Corn (2013)
Stir-Fry Sauce
Stromboli
Stromboli with Tomato Sauce
Sweet and Sour Pork
Sweet and Sour Sauce
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Stew (2013)
Sweet Potato Pie
Sweet Potato-Plum Bread Squares
Tabouleh (tah-BUHL-lee)
Taco Pie with Beans
Taco Pie with Salad Topping
Taco Salad
Tartar Sauce
Tasty Tots (2013)
Teriyaki Sauce
Thick Vegetable Soup
Thousand Island Dressing
Three Bean Salad
Toasted Cheese Sandwich (updated April 2007)
Toasted Turkey Ham and Cheese Sandwich (updated April 2007)
Tomato Sauce (Meatless)
Top Pastry Crust (Steamtable Pans)
Tuna and Noodles
Tuna Salad Sandwich
Turkey and Dressing Supreme
Tuscan Smoked Turkey and Bean Soup (2013)
Vanilla Cream Frosting
Vegetable Chili
Vegetable Chili Boat (2013)
Vegetable Lasagna
Vegetable Pizza
Vegetable Quesadilla
Vegetable Soup
Vegetable Stromboli (updated January 2007)
Vegetable Wraps (updated March 2006)
Waldorf Fruit Salad
Whipped Topping
White Bread
White Sauce
Whole Wheat Sugar Cookies (updated March 2006)
Yellow Cake


Recipes That Take You Back to School Days

Just about every year at this time, nostalgia over foods eaten in school cafeterias years ago rears a maudlin head.

How good or bad those school day foods actually were matters not. It’s how well remembered, adored and revered they are today that counts.

Judy Gilges of Long Beach writes: “In the cafeteria in the early ‘60s, they used to make a tuna sandwich and a killer peanut butter cookie. . . .”

Ellen Vakovich remembers a crumb cake sold during nutrition break. “It’s been a very long time since I’ve eaten that great cake,” she writes.

So we’re back digging in our files for those long-lost recipes for cookies, pizzas, cinnamon rolls.

Experience throughout the years has told us that sweets are remembered most fondly and most frequently. Ranger Cookies (also known as Flying Saucers), the most frequently requested school recipe, was formulated for home use by a cereal manufacturer in 1952, according to school officials interviewed some years ago. Back then the Los Angeles City Unified School District food service director was Helen Crane, who adapted the recipe that has been a favorite since.

Today, an oversized chocolate chip cookie and a plain, moist and dense crumb cake, the standard breakfast item today, are considered the most popular sweets on the a la carte menu, according to Anita King, now head of nutrition services for the Los Angeles City Unified School District.

Today, too, attitudes toward sweets have dramatically altered school menus, particularly the dessert menu.

School district nutritionists have markedly curbed dessert offerings in the School Lunch Program in an effort to conform to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines to reduce fats and sugars in the diet. Today, school lunch rooms are serving occasional cookies such as apple-oatmeal, ice milk and fruit juice bars along with fresh fruit.

“We’ve gotten away from serving desserts almost entirely in the last seven or eight years. We try to encourage fresh fruit for school lunches,” said King.

Sugary goodies, however, have been available on an a la carte basis all along.

Among them is Devil’s Food Cake, which was introduced in 1939 to the Los Angeles City Schools by Frances Johnson, when she was a manager at one of the schools. Today, the recipe for the dark, moist cake derives its red coloring from baking soda, not the red food dye used in the past. “The cake is especially good when frosted with Seven Minute Frosting, and dribbled with melted chocolate,” suggested King. And there are readers who have reminded us how wonderful that gooey cake was--and is.

Sour Cream Coffeecake, a version of the breakfast coffee crumb cake requested by Vakovich, has been part of the school cafeteria repertoire since 1959 and is still served at special school functions.

A peanut crunch, still requested by readers, was served in the Glendale Unified School District for years and was one of the all-time favorites of that school district.

Among the favorite entrees most requested throughout the years has been pizza, which made its debut in 1957 in the Long Beach Unified School District. Today, according to King, pizza is numero uno, along with tacos and hamburgers.

There was a time, however, when the best-remembered entrees were such school favorites as chopped beef and gravy over mashed potatoes and roast beef hash, no longer served in schools. Readers, however, still request the recipes. And we still print them.

Here they are, along with other old and new recipes from school cafeterias that will no doubt be passed on through the years to come, like heirlooms:

SCHOOL HOUSE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 (12-ounce) package semisweet chocolate pieces

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts

Beat butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until light and creamy. Beat in eggs and vanilla until well blended. Combine flour, salt and baking soda.

Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture and beat until well blended. Using spoon, stir in chocolate pieces and walnuts.

With ice cream scoop or 1/4 cup measure, scoop out dough and drop onto ungreased baking sheet about 3 inches apart. Flatten dough into 3-inch rounds.

Bake at 350 degrees 12 to 14 minutes. Makes 27 (4-inch) cookies.

OLD-FASHIONED COFFEE CRUMB CAKE

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons oil

1 1/4 cups brown sugar, packed

Combine flour, dry milk, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, baking powder and soda in large bowl. Set aside.

Combine vinegar and water in measuring cup. Set aside.

Blend together oil, brown sugar and granulated sugar in mixer bowl on low speed 1 minute. Add eggs and continue to blend on low speed 1 minute.

While mixer is on low speed, add dry ingredients alternately with water and vinegar to oil-sugar mixture. Scrape down bowl, then blend on medium speed 1 minute longer.

Evenly divide batter between 2 greased 9-inch square pans. Sprinkle 3/4 cup Crumb Topping evenly over batter in each pan.

Bake at 375 degrees 45 to 55 minutes in conventional oven or at 325 degrees 35 to 40 minutes in convection oven. Makes 9 servings per pan.

3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons flour

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed

1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Combine flour, sugars, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in mixer bowl. Blend on low speed 1 minute. Add oil gradually and continue to blend until topping is crumbly.

LONG BEACH SCHOOL DISTRICT PIZZA

1/8 teaspoon dried oregano

3/4 cup diced canned tomatoes

1 (1-pound) package biscuit mix

1/2 pound Cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded

Brown beef and drain off fat. Add flour and stir in salt, pepper to taste, oregano and sugar. Add tomato puree and canned tomatoes and simmer until flavors are well blended.

Prepare crust according to biscuit mix directions. Roll dough into rectangle larger than 18x12-inch pan. Wrap dough around rolling pin, hold thumbs firmly over dough on ends to easily lift and fit dough onto pan. Trim off edges by rolling rolling pin over pan edges. Pierce dough in several places before baking.

Prebake at 450 degrees 15 minutes or until lightly baked. Just before serving, pour hot meat sauce over baked crust, sprinkle with cheeses and bake at 350 degrees until heated through and cheese melts. Makes 6 servings.


What School Lunch Looked Like Each Decade for the Past Century

A hundred years ago, school lunch as we know it didn’t exist. Most children went home for their meal, or if they had a few cents in their pocket, they bought a less-than-healthy treat from a street vendor. In the decades that followed, the forces of business, public health, and politics would transform school lunches into a communal experience filled with adolescent power struggles, branded lunch boxes, and heaping portions of mystery meat. Here’s how the midday meal has evolved through the years.

1900s

The vast majority of children in the early 1900s went home for lunch. In some rural communities, children would bring food from home or, if their teacher was industrious, bring ingredients for a communal stew cooked over a kettle. As more and more parents took jobs in factories and elsewhere outside the home, many children were left without food options. In cities like Boston and Philadelphia, organizations like the Women's Education and Industrial Union began providing meals for schoolchildren. Elementary school children were given crackers, soup, and milk. At Boston’s Trade School for Girls, lunch selections included celery soup with croutons, stuffed tomatoes, apple shortcake, baked beans and brown bread, and cocoa to drink—prepared by the girls as part of their domestic science program.

1910s

Volunteer organizations became the main source for low-cost and subsidized school lunches. By 1912, more than 40 cities across the U.S. offered programs through groups like the New York School Lunch Committee, which offered 3-cent meals. Kids didn’t get much for their money [PDF]: Pea soup, lentils, or rice and a piece of bread was a common offering. If students had an extra cent, they could spring for an additional side like stewed prunes, rice pudding, or a candied apple. In rural communities, parent-teacher committees pooled their resources. Pinellas County in Florida started a program that served meat-and-potato stew to schoolchildren using ingredients donated by parents. Even with these innovative efforts, there was still massive concern about hunger and malnutrition amongst America’s schoolchildren.

1920s

The emphasis on providing a "hot lunch" took hold during this era. By the early '20s, more and more kids were chowing down on stews, boiled meats, creamed vegetables, and bread. But health experts warned that these meals were nutritionally deficient. In an editorial, The Journal of Home Economics had earlier worried that parents and community lunch programs, left to their own devices, would let children consume nothing but coffee, potato chips, pickles, and "frankforters." Schools listened, and many began tracking students’ health and teaching them how to cook. The practice of home economics teachers having girls prepare nutritionally balanced lunches became even more widespread, and these kitchens gradually became professional operations, paving the way for the modern cafeteria-and-kitchen setup.

1930s

In the wake of the Great Depression, the federal government authorized the U.S. Department of Agriculture to buy up surplus food from farmers and funnel it into school lunch programs. As a result, schools began serving a lot more beef, pork, butter, and other commodities. But public health advocates like Margaret Mead still pushed for balanced meals. Relief organizations in New York City served up fresh apples, bananas, vegetable soups, and peanut butter sandwiches to children. Some of these early attempts to produce nutritious meals on a budget produced oddball recipes. One guide published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for instance, recommended combining peanut butter with cottage cheese or salad dressing to make a sandwich filling.

1940s

By the early 1940s, every U.S. state had federally supported lunch programs in place. However, during World War II, funding and the number of available workers dropped, leaving many children without meals. After the war, Congress passed the National School Lunch Act, which further expanded the availability of school lunches. The program still relied on agricultural surplus, which meant schools often got food they couldn’t use. "Perishable foods rotted en route to schools or arrived unannounced at schools that could not refrigerate them," wrote Harvey Levenstein in Paradox of Plenty: A Social History of Eating in America. A USDA guide to menu planning using farm surpluses included recipes for creamed chipped beef, Spanish rice and bacon, cornmeal pudding, fruit shortcake, and a pork mush known as scrapple. During WWII, the government recognized the need to balance rationing and children's nutrition, so the War Food Administration began offering financial aid to certain agencies to buy school food locally.

1950s

Feeding the baby boom meant school districts had to ramp up production in a big way. In addition to traditional hot lunches, many began serving cold lunches, which included a variety of sandwiches, cottage cheese, pork and apple salads, tomato wedges, and ice cream. By 1952, school lunch had become a $415 million business. Private companies, eager for a slice of the action, began contracting with school districts. Branded lunchboxes themed to TV shows like Gunsmoke and Hopalong Cassidy began appearing on lunch tables. With postwar industry zipping along, children were fed rich, protein-heavy dishes like cheese meatloaf, sausage shortcake, ham and bean scallop, and orange coconut custard with cottage cheese.

1960s

Foods once considered ethnic, like pizza, enchiladas, and chili con carne, made their way onto school menus. Kids could also rely on traditional favorites like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and fish sticks with tartar sauce. Many school districts centralized their lunch production. In New York’s central facility, 100 workers each produced 300 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches per hour, while dozens of vats hard-boiled eggs en masse. At the same time, national attention turned to the millions of needy schoolchildren who still didn’t receive federally funded lunches. In 1966, Lyndon Johnson signed the Child Nutrition Act, which expanded the availability of school lunches across the country.

1970s

Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains didn’t stand a chance against the rising tide of fast food. Impressed with the efficiency and popularity of Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s, schools put hamburgers, French fries, and other greasy fare on their menus. A 1974 lunch menu from the Houston school district included chiliburgers, hamburgers, oven fried chicken, buttered corn, and fruit gelatin. As federal nutrition standards continued to weaken, vending and foodservice companies brought chips, candy bars and other treats to schools as well. In 1979, the USDA put out guidelines that said school lunches needed only to provide "minimum nutritional value."

1980s

In 1981, the federal lunch program made headlines after changes to nutrition guidelines classified ketchup as a vegetable. The guidelines were a response to early '80s budget cutting, which reduced the school lunch program by $1 billion. It was also a defining moment for an era when processed food creations ruled the cafeteria. Chicken nuggets, cheeseburgers, and rectangular pizza slices were always on the menu, along with chocolate pudding, Jell-O, and sliced fruit drenched in syrup. Those that brought their lunch sported Handi-Snacks, Fruit Roll-Ups, and pouches of Capri Sun. In the late '80s, a handful of Oscar Mayer employees tasked with selling more of the company’s bologna came up with one of the best-selling kids' products of all time: Lunchables.

1990s

Rather than try to imitate fast food, in the '90s many schools simply let fast food operators into their cafeterias. Federal government standards allowed McDonald’s, Little Caesar’s, Chick-fil-A, and others to set up shop. The exchange was agreeable for both sides: Schools happily accepted funding, while fast food companies were eager to reach young consumers. For their subsidized lunches, schools increasingly turned to foodservice companies like Marriott and Sodexo. Lunch bags and boxes, meanwhile, overflowed with indulgent gems like Dunkaroos, Gushers, Teddy Grahams, Ecto Coolers and bottles of Squeeze-It. It was a delicious time for kids, but with obesity rates on the rise, certainly not the healthiest.

2000s

By 2005, half of all U.S. schools offered fast food in their cafeterias, with an even higher percentage carrying soda and snack vending machines. School districts across the country were conflicted. On the one hand, they needed the revenue that companies like Pepsi and McDonald’s provided. But on the other hand, they couldn’t overlook soaring obesity rates. Many began tweaking their menus, hoping to entice kids with dishes like grilled jerk chicken, barbecued pork sandwiches, and fresh (instead of canned) fruits and vegetables. Natural and organic food companies like Stonyfield Farm and Annie’s entered the kids’ snack market.

2010s

In 2010, President Obama signed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, a politically contentious bill that required officials to revamp the federal lunch program’s nutrition standards, while First Lady Michelle Obama made kids’ nutrition and fitness a priority with her Let’s Move campaign. Healthy eating gained cultural momentum, too, with celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver promoting fresh, local dishes for kids. Some schools installed vegetable gardens, and many began feeding students meals that would have seemed downright strange two decades prior. Houston’s schools, for one, now offer turkey hot dogs, roasted summer squash, and fresh broccoli florets in addition to pizza, cheeseburgers, and chicken nuggets. Although the ultimate impact of school lunch reform isn't clear, one thing is: At more than $10 billion a year, school lunch is a big business.


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The 2020-2021 Lunch Application is now available! For more information, visit our Free & Reduced Meal Program page


N.J. Employees Lie for Free School Lunch Program - Recipes

Starting in the 2012-2013 school year, schools will be requried to follow a new school lunch meal pattern.

Click here for the presentation concerning the changes.


Program objective

To provide a nutritious, well-balanced lunch for children in order to promote sound eating habits, to foster good health and academic achievement and to reinforce the nutrition education taught in the classroom. A school lunch will provide 1/3 of the Recommended Dietary Allowances for lunch and be consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and caloric goals.

Eligibility criteria

  • All public schools, nonprofit private schools tax exempt under 501(C)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and residential child care institutions are eligible to sponsor a program that may begin at any time during the year.
  • Participating sponsors receive cash reimbursement which is adjusted annually and donated United States Department of Agriculture commodities based on the number of lunches served to children.

Participation requirements

  • Sponsors must annually sign an agreement with the Bureau of Child Nutrition Programs, New Jersey Department of Agriculture that includes, but is not limited to, the following requirements:
    • Plan menus which meet specific minimum standards for key nutrients and calories through selection of an approved menu planning system.
    • Claim reimbursement only for lunches served to children that meet the required meal pattern.
    • Provide a free or reduced price lunch to any child from a household meeting criteria for eligibility, based on household size and income.
    • The program must be operated on a nonprofit basis solely for the benefit of all children within the school.

    Pricing of lunches

    • The price charged to paying children is established by the sponsor, but must be within the maximum prices established by the Bureau of Child Nutrition Programs.
    • The price charged to adults must cover all costs and, at a minimum, exceed the price of children's lunches by a margin established by the Bureau of Child Nutrition Programs to compensate for the reimbursement and donated commodities available only for children's lunches.

    Record-keeping

    • A reimbursement voucher is filed monthly with the Bureau of Child Nutrition Programs, New Jersey Department of Agriculture.
    • Maintain current records to include, but not limited to, applications for free and reduced price meals, edit check worksheets, daily meal counts and income records, daily dated menus, production records, standardized recipes, and manufacturer's nutrition fact sheets for commercially processed foods.
    • The required statistical and financial records supporting all reimbursement vouchers must be kept on file for a period of three years following the fiscal year to which they pertain except that, if audit findings have not been resolved, the records shall be retained beyond the three year period as long as required for the resolution of issues raised by the audit.
    • All records must be available for administrative review and/or audit by the Bureau of Child Nutrition Programs, New Jersey Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Agriculture.

    For further information

    Click here for contact information regarding the National School Lunch Program or any other Child Nutrition Program.


    School Meals

    Many schools provide students with access to meals through federal school meal programs including the National School Lunch Program external icon and the School Breakfast Program external icon . These programs are administered by the US Department of Agriculture external icon and state agencies by reimbursing schools for providing healthy meals to students.

    All students can participate in school meal programs, and some students are eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has extended flexibilities external icon to allow free meals to be available to all children, regardless of household income, through June 30, 2022.

    • Programs like the National School Lunch Program&rsquos Afterschool Snack Service, the At-Risk Snack and Meals component of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) offer financial support to provide children and youths with nutritious snacks and meals. CACFP and SFSP specifically reach children from low-income areas.
    • School food service departments have experience following food safety and nutrition guidelines. This makes them strong candidates for serving as a Child and Adult Care Food Program or Summer Food Service Program sponsor.

    Research shows that students who participate in the school meal programs consume more whole grains, milk, fruits, and vegetables during meal times and have better overall diet quality, than nonparticipants. 1,2 And, eating breakfast at school is associated with better attendance rates, fewer missed school days, and better test scores. 3&ndash6 Meals served through these programs must meet specific nutrition requirements external icon . These requirements were revised in 2012 to include more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and decrease the amount of sodium and trans fat. Research shows that these changes have helped make school meals more nutritious. 1,7

    Schools can encourage students to participate in the school meal programs by: