Last night the Board also passed a resolution co-sponsored by Commissioner Wynns and I entitled “Feeding Every Hungry Child in SFUSD.” For years, we’ve had an unofficial policy of feeding any child who showed up in the lunch line, whether or not they had money to pay for a lunch and whether or not they had turned in an application qualifying them for a free- or reduced-price lunch. This is a pragmatic as well as moral policy, since hungry children cannot learn. But it has turned into an increasingly expensive practice.
No one wants to stop feeding hungry children; nor do we want to offer a highly stigmatizing “meal of shame” to children who cannot pay or those who have not turned in a meal application that qualifies them for a reimbursed meal. But our “cash shortages”–the amount of money we should be able to collect either through cash payments or reimbursements but don’t –have more than doubled in the past five years. And when cash shortages rise, Student Nutrition Services has no choice but to cut back on the quality, quantity and variety of food served to our students.
The resolution passed last night concludes that it’s time to make our “unofficial” policy official, and ask for help from our school communities in making sure every meal we serve is either reimbursable or paid for. Schools can help the most by making sure, at the beginning of every year, that each and every student fills out a meal application. At schools like Hillcrest Elementary and Balboa High School, a bit of concerted effort on the part of administrators and parents has accomplished incredible reductions in cash shortages, and we will offer incentives to schools who match these results. The resolution also reminds schools of the sometimes annoying but required regulations we must follow in order to maintain our district’s eligibility to participate in the National School Lunch Program.
For everything you could ever want to know about student nutrition and to learn easy and effective ways to improve the quality of lunches served in our schools, please visit www.sfusdfood.org.
Other business conducted by the Board:
- The Board unanimously approved the extension of Creative Arts Charter School‘s charter for another three years (it was a treat to hear from a number of smart and charming CACS kids about why they love their school; I also want to commend school leader Liz Jaroslow and the CACS Board on their ongoing efforts to maintain a nurturing, high-quality program at CACS);
- Commissioner Kim introduced for first reading a resolution creating a student feedback system that would collect quantitative and qualitative feedback from middle and high school students on teacher performance;
- The Board voted on a Special Order of Business formally creating a Chinese immersion program at the newly-reopened DeAvila Elementary; the vote also formally increased Kindergarten class sizes in 2009-10 to 22 students. Linda Plack, Vice President of UESF, addressed the Board on this issue and pointed out that the increased class size represents a significant increase in teacher workload. Ms. Plack also said the decision to increase class size should be addressed through the contract between UESF and SFUSD and expressed dismay with this decision.