MAY 6, 2010

School lunch program more important than you may know

By Alannah Allbrett     

   The rising cost of food, coupled with lower enrollment makes it challenging for the district to provide tasty, nutritious lunches. The district receives reimbursement from the state according to the number of free, reduced, and paid lunches served; any excess comes out of the district budget. The number of lunches now being served is just under 700 per day.

   Not all students, who attend school, participate in the school lunch program. The students at Timberline Schools have an 80% participation rate, compared to a 60% participation by Orofino Elementary and Junior High. Orofino High School has an approximately 48% participation rate, as students often eat off campus.

Critical funding information

   Each school year, parents are provided with confidential applications to participate in the Free and Reduced national lunch program (F&R), designed to help students from low income families. The statistics gathered from these applications are crucial to this district in many unimagined ways. A family might struggle to provide paid lunches during the school year, when they can’t really afford it, not knowing that the F&R assists their children in many unseen ways.

   The food program has received a Fruit and Vegetable Grant, as well as a Stimulus Grant which,  purchased equipment in the Timberline Schools due to their higher participation.

   The library, teachers, and the technical program apply for needed grants – all based on the numbers generated by the Free and Reduced national lunch program. The federal government also subsidizes (via E-rate) the technology program, based upon these numbers.  It is important to note that many organizations depend on the F&R statistics to receive necessary governmental funding.

   If your family qualifies, you do the community a service by applying for the F&R program. Applications may be picked up at any public school.


   Carmen Griffith began working for the school district in 2000, as a substitute in the kitchen. She is now in her second year as the Director of Food Services where she plans menus, orders the food, maintains state required documents, supervises staff, and attends state training sessions.

   If you’ve ever wondered where your child’s school meals come from, there are three main suppliers: Sysco, Food Service of America, and Northwest Tools for Schools. The school also takes advantage of government commodities to supply a wide variety of food items such as: ground beef, BBQ pork, chicken, various cheeses, potato wedges, turkey meat, chicken nuggets, popcorn chicken and patties, canned fruits, beans, and dried pasta. The amount of commodities is based on the number of lunches served last year.  This program is operated by the State of Idaho, and food service supervisors, such as Carmen, are invited once a year to the Eagle Hills Event Center in Boise to taste samples and see new food choices.

Healthful meals

   The state says that a child must be offered five components to a healthful meal: protein fruit, vegetables, grain or bread, and a dairy product. But the state only requires that the child take three items. District 171 has a Wellness Policy which is even a little stricter than state and federal requirements. They require that a child (K-6 grade) take four of the necessary items to make up a healthful meal.

Summer programs

   In addition to regular school lunch, the district has other food service programs to oversee. Since students in Cavendish and Peck don’t have access to the lunch program, they qualify for a “special milk” program that enables them to get their milk provided free or at the reduced price of 10 cents per carton, with the rest of the cost being reimbursed by the state.

   The summer foods program will be offered this year only in the valley. It will be operated out of Orofino Elementary School for children ages one through eighteen. Applications are not required to take advantage of this program.

   Learning Enrichment After School Program (LEAP), for preschoolers, and Childhood Early Enrichment Program (CHEAP), for elementary aged children, are two additional locations where summer lunches will be served. CHEAP is located at: 245 114th St., Orofino. LEAP is located next to the public library at 420 Michigan Avenue, Orofino. For more information on CHEAP, call 476-7679. For more information on LEAP, call 827-0523.

   If you have other questions, contact Carmen Griffith at 476-4810.