COLUMBIA — A discussion about the National School Lunch Program and children's need for healthy food took place after a documentary on the subject was shown Thursday.
"Lunch Line," which was played at Ragtag Cinema, outlines the challenges and opportunities faced by the school lunch program around the country. In the conversation that followed, two nutritionists and a rural sociology department staff member* spoke about Columbia's goals.
The discussion was hosted by Laina Fullum, director of nutrition for Columbia Public Schools; Brad Faith, chef of nutrition services for the schools; and Bill McKelvey, project coordinator for the Department of Rural Sociology at MU.
The National School Lunch Program provides schools the ability to serve free or reduced price lunches to children in need.
In Columbia, 42 percent of children qualify for free or reduced price lunches and the number is still growing, Fullum said.
According to the schools' nutrition services, the full price of a lunch for a middle school student is $2.40, while the reduced price is $0.40. The program feeds 14,000 children in Columbia each day, which comes to 1.9 million meals every year, Fullum said.
“Our community has asked us to change,” Fullum said. The district is trying to serve good food that the children will eat, while staying within its budget of about $3 million, she said.
While federal funding is what drives the menu items, the district is working to start the change the community is asking for. Fresh fruits and vegetables are served every day, as well as whole grains.
Faith said one of the difficulties is getting children to eat the healthy food instead of going for chips or pizza. Educating the students about nutrition is one thing that will help to get them to open their minds, he said.