By Kelsey Casselbury 2015-06-09 10:15:59
1995 to 2015: A look at just a few of the “ingredients” that have affected the school nutrition profession during the past 20 years. BACK IN 1995—that’s 20 years ago, if you’re counting—this magazine published a comprehensive overview of the school nutrition environment, focusing on societal factors and elements that can and do have an impact on school meal programs, their administration and operation and the professionals that manage them. Looking back, the early- to mid-1990s was a time of rapid change, as family dynamics shifted, food and labor costs rose and technology first emerged as a key driver in school nutrition operations. So, here we are in 2015, and with 20 more revolutions around the sun under our collective belts, it remains clearer than ever that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Family dynamics continue to shift. Food and labor costs are still on the rise. Technology changes faster than anyone can reasonably keep up. The magazine’s 1995 environmental scan article, “Weights & Measures,” was written by the Association’s director of Marketing and Membership, one Patricia M. Montague, CAE—now SNA CEO! With this month’s focus on “School Nutrition Today & Tomorrow,” an update of these various weights and measures that affect school nutrition (and our everyday lives) seemed in order. How are the ingredients coming together to change the recipe for the K-12 school meal segment? A look at the current mix, with a reflective look back, too, for comparison’s sake, may help to give a little perspective for the future. DEMOGRAPHICS America on the Grow In 1995, SN said … In the past 30 years, the U.S. population grew from 180 million people to nearly 250 million in 1990. It is projected that the population will reach 260 million by the end of the year, 268 million by the year 2000 and 283 million by 2010, with an average growth rate of 0.6%. In 2015 … The estimated U.S. population hovers around 321 million. If there’s one thing you should never underestimate, it’s the world’s ability to procreate! In fact, in 2010, the Census counted the country’s population as 308,745,538—a far cry from the 283 million projected in 1995. At the risk of publishing another woefully underestimated 20-year population prediction, the World Bank anticipates an American population of 366.7 million in 2035. Not surprisingly, California, Texas and Florida have the country’s biggest populations (at 38 million, 27 million and 20 million, respectively), but it might surprise you which state is the fastest-growing of them all: North Dakota (thanks to the oil boom), with a growth rate of nearly 10% between 2010 and 2014. Additionally, Washington, D.C., Texas, Utah and Colorado all enjoyed population growth of more than 6% in these same four years. Of course, it’s the school-aged population that most affects the school nutrition profession. In 1995, the U.S. was home to approximately 45.7 million kids ages 5-17; in 2015, according to ChildStats.gov, the number has grown to 49.4 million school-aged children. In another 20 years, in 2035, it’s predicted that the number of school-aged kids will hover around 54.5 million. Despite this growth, the number of births in America actually has been on the decline for a number of years. In 2013, there were 3.93 million births, which is down 9% from the 2007 high of 4.3 million babies that broke the 1957 Baby Boom record. This means that incoming kindergarten classes will shrink in the years to come. For foodservice operations that participate in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) or offer catering services and administer contracts for programs like Meals on Wheels, the number of U.S. senior citizens also makes an impact. Those age 65 and older numbered 40.3 million in 2010. (The magazine estimated in 1995 that by 2010, these seniors would be almost 40 million strong—so we were close on that one!) That number is expected to double by 2050. Multiculturalism Multiplies In 1995, SN said ... The U.S. is increasingly becoming a multi-ethnic society…with one out of every four Americans belonging to a racial or ethnic minority. America’s minorities won’t account for one-third of the entire population until 2030. In 2015 … The minority population has continued to grow, but as of 2013, those reporting as white remained solidly in the majority at 77.7%. The black population numbered 13.2%, and Asians comprised 5.3% of the population. Those reporting as Hispanic or Latino—who, by definition, can be of any race—numbered 17.1%. Additionally, the U.S. immigrant population as of 2013 stands at more than 41 million—13% of the total U.S. population. When you add in the immigrants’ U.S.-born children, they comprise one-quarter of the U.S. population. Why does this affect school nutrition? For one, immigration waves can influence menu decisions. Not only do directors look to add cuisines that reflect the cultural and dietary preferences of the unique demographics in their respective communities, but global cuisines are making greater inroads all across the country, beyond the target ethnic populations. Plus, changes in immigration trends can have an impact on the labor pool available to the school foodservice segment. Of that 41 million, Mexican immigrants account for the largest foreign-born group, while Indian, Chinese and Filipino populations follow. District Direction In 1995, SN said … As of the 1991-92 school year, there were 15,173 school districts, down 404 districts (3%) in five years. This downward trend has been going on for more than 30 years … as the number and size of metropolitan areas continue to increase, smaller districts are being combined into larger districts. … Public school enrollment in kindergarten through grade eight rose from 39.4 million in Fall 1985 to an estimated 43.4 million in Fall 1993 … between Fall 1993 and Fall 2000, public elementary enrollment is projected to grow by 10%, with secondary school enrollment expected to rise by 16%. In 2015 … The consolidation trend continues. In fact, the total number of school districts in the United States has decreased every year since the National Center for Education Statistics began keeping track. In SY 2010-11—the most recent data available from the NCES—there were 13,588 school districts made up of 98,817 public schools. As predicted, public school enrollment has increased steadily in the last two decades; as of SY 2011-12, enrollment reached a peak total of 49.5 million—an increase of 2.3 million from SY 2000-01. These numbers break down to 34.8 million students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight and 14.7 million in grades nine to 12. Nevada, Utah, Texas and Arizona garnered the biggest gains, while total enrollment declined in 20 states, most notably Vermont and North Dakota (despite the latter state’s population increase). Experts project that through SY 2023-24, public school enrollment will continue to increase by another 5% to reach a total of 52.1 million students. Nevada, Arizona, Alaska and Utah are poised to see the largest increases, while it’s expected that West Virginia will decrease in student enrollment by 11%. ECONOMICS Economy Ups and Downs In 1995, SN said … Economic projections throughout the year 1999 are good, with an average growth rate of 2.4%. Despite general optimism toward the economy for 2000, some potential hazards loom on the economic front. Of particular concern are the nation’s budget and trade deficits. In 2015 … There weren’t any experts in 1995 that could have predicted the global recession that began in 2007-08 and hasn’t fully shaken off, despite recent gains in employment, the stock market, GDP, housing starts and other indicators. As for the future—even the short term? Well, the team here at School Nutrition claims to be a lot of things, but economists we are not. Therefore, we turned to some folks much wiser in this arena for some predictions about the economic outlook. According to the group at Kiplinger, the U.S. economy will pick up steam in the coming months, primarily because of gains in the job market and growth in income, which boosts purchases of homes, cars and other products and services. The economy also is helped by lower gas prices. However, oil prices currently are ticking higher, and that will be reflected at the fuel pump as summer continues. When it comes to projecting further down the road, Bill Conerly of Forbes claimed in January that 2015 looks “solid,” but predicted that 2017 or 2018 could bring another recession, depending on moves made by the Federal Reserve. The Family Wallet In 1995, SN said … Today, more families face financial difficulties than they did 20 years ago. The costs of housing, education, health care and transportation have risen steadily since the 1970s, consuming more of the typical family’s income. In 2015 … This is another case of the more things change, the more they stay the same. The economic downturn of the late 2000s is still resonating in many communities, and school nutrition professionals see its effects in many of their lunchrooms. As of 2013, the median household income hovers around $53,000, compared to around $34,000 in 1995. While this is a 64% increase in household income, check out the “Then and Now” box on page 81 to review product and service costs that have outpaced wage increases. Approximately 15.4% of the U.S. population—45 million Americans—are stuck below the poverty line, which is defined as $15,930 for a family of two, $20,090 for a family of three and $24,250 for a family of four, as of 2015. More than 16 million school-age children—22%—live below the poverty line, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty. Children under age 18 represent 23% of the overall U.S. population, but they comprise 34% of all Americans living in poverty. These statistics correlate, as you might expect, to the free and reduced-price meals participation rate. Out of the 30.3 million children served daily as part of the National School Lunch Program, approximately 19.1 million are eligible for free school lunch and another 2.5 million qualify for the reduced-price lunch. An estimated 13.5 million students are served school breakfast and, of that, 10.43 million receive the meal for free. In fact, according to analysis by the Southern Education Foundation, a majority (51%) of all U.S. public school students live in low-income households. Dollars for Scholars In 1995, SN said … While expenditures on education are at an all-time high, the total state and local government funds spent on education declined during the 1980s … Of the $248 billion spent on elementary and secondary schools in 1991, $108 billion (47.3%) was funded by the states; $100.9 billion (44.1%) from local governments and $14.2 billion (6.2%) from the federal government. Federal funding is likely to stay the same or decrease more as the Republicancontrolled Congress gears up for more budget cuts. In 2015 … Total expenditures for public schools in the United States amounted to $632 billion in SY 2010-11, which breaks down to $12,608 per student. In the 10-year period between 2000-01 and 2010-11, expenditures per student increased by 14%, after adjusting for inflation. On the other end of the spectrum, about 44% of school funding comes from state governments, while another 43% comes from local governments. While it doesn’t seem like much, the 13% of school funding from the federal government, as of 2010-11, is more than double the 1991 amount. Of the annual funding received by schools from different government sources, an estimated $431 per student is spent on foodservices. Child Nutrition Funding In 1995, SN said … The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is the largest federal child nutrition program and the second-largest source of federal funding for elementary and secondary schools … $6.1 billion of the $7.5 billion of the funds the Department of Agriculture received in FY 1992 went to child nutrition programs. In 2015 … The total appropriation for all child nutrition programs for FY 2015 is $21.3 billion, a drastic increase from the 1992 amount. This funding reflects gradual increases in reimbursement rates, accounting (somewhat) for ongoing rises in food and labor costs, but it also is a measure of the steady increases in program participation; the NSLP rose from 25.7 million meals daily to more than 30 million meals in the last 20 years. School breakfast participation has more than doubled in that period (6.3 million to 13.5 million). Here’s the budget breakdown: $12.66 billion for NSLP, $3.69 billion for the School Breakfast Program (SBP), $3.13 billion for CACFP and $456 million for summer feeding programs. The top five states in terms of school nutrition funding are California ($2.26 billion), Texas ($2.22 billion), Florida ($1.17 billion), New York ($1.12 billion) and Georgia ($702 million). Menu Monies In 1995, SN said … From the 1988-89 school year to the 1992-92 school year, the cost of food increased the median price of school lunch by 9.3 cents (16%) and the cost of labor by 11.4 cents (17.4%) for a total cost increase of 20.3 cents a meal, or 16%. In 2015 … Significant research on the cost of school meals hasn’t been conducted since 2008, when USDA released its School Lunch and Breakfast Cost Study-II, at which time the full cost of producing a reimbursable school lunch was $2.91—exceeding the reimbursement subsidy of nearly $2.50. When publishing the final rule regarding new nutrition standards for the NSLP and SBP, USDA estimated that meal costs would increase 8% by FY 2015, translating to a 10-cent increase for each reimbursable lunch and a 27-cent increase for each breakfast. The current reimbursement rates for schools are $2.93 for free lunch, $2.53 for reduced-price lunches and $0.28 for paid lunches. Schools that are certified to be in compliance with meal requirements receive an additional 6 cents reimbursement. SNA’s 2014 Back to School Trends report noted that 87% of school districts reported an increase in food costs in SY 2013-14, and most anticipated continued increases in SY 2014-15. Additionally, 78% of respondents anticipated increases in labor costs and 64% expected increases in non-food supply costs. HEALTH America at Large In 1995, SN said … For the past decade, America has been on a thin binge, most recently propelled by the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines and an all-out media war on fats in food and our bodies. The word is that we eat too much fat, and we’re overweight as a nation … many have gotten the message about what is good for them and what is not, but most are not eating enough of the most nutritious meals. In 2015 … A number of nutrients have been blamed for the still-critical obesity epidemic in the United States, but the nutrition community has generally shaken off the notion that fat is the primary culprit. Most recently, an advisory committee for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggested that sugar is the true problem child in the standard American diet. That position is likely to be reflected in the final Dietary Guidelines recommendations set to be released later this year. Regardless of the cause, the rate of obesity in America continues to be a crisis. Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the last 30 years. In 2012, more than one-third of children (ages 2-19) were classified as overweight or obese. More than two-thirds of U.S. adults fit into this combined category. TECHNOLOGY Age of the Geek In 1995, SN said … Operators throughout the foodservice industry are displaying voracious appetites for technology, gobbling up computer-based management systems to control costs, software packages to enhance marketing efforts and even high-tech gadgets to add pizzazz…the move to automation in the child nutrition area of public schools has really just begun. In 2015 … It’s like comparing apples and oranges when you look at the rise of technology in the mid-1990s and the mainstay it’s become today. While in 1995, SN reviewed the increasing use of debit cards and predicted the rise of “smartcards,” which served as an all-in-one ID/ library/building key card for students in school—that didn’t really grab hold—today, we’re more focused on the growth in technology for communications, marketing (social media), point-of-sale, inventory management and tools to increase efficiency. School Nutrition will do a deeper dive into technology in its December 2015 issue, but we’ll look at just two of these areas now. When it comes to social media, a recent survey by SNA found that 43% of respondents noted that either their school district or the foodservice department used social media channels to communicate school nutrition information to parents and students. Content focuses mostly on menus, as well as department-specific promotions or activities and information about free and reduced-price eligibility. Facebook was the most commonly used site—84% of respondents noted that’s their go-to social media place—while 52% of respondents’ districts or school nutrition departments used Twitter. Smartphone apps were used by 20% of respondents. At the cashier station, 72% of school food operations use student personal identification numbers (PINs) to accept payment, while 28% used swipe cards. Somewhat shockingly, 13% continue to use a student roster, with cashiers (or teachers and monitors for breakfast-in-the-classroom and afterschool programs) checking off the names of students who take a reimbursable meal. All other point-of-sale methods, such as tickets, tokens or biometric technology, accounted for 18%. (Some operations use multiple methods, which is why the numbers overshoot 100%.) FINAL FORECAST Reading the Tea Leaves In 1995, SN said … Of course, there is no way to truly predict the future of school foodservice in the 21st century. Life is always changing. However, a look back at the last five decades clearly shows at least a few constants: hungry children and a commitment from operators to feed them nutritious and delicious meals. Although the coming years may look very different in terms of demographics, economics, politics, technology and lifestyle, the need for school meal programs—and dedicated school foodservice professionals—is unlikely to diminish. In 2015 … The more things change, the more they stay the same. Notable NUMBERS Are all these facts and figures making your head spin? Here are a few standout figures to remember: • 250 million: U.S. population in 1990 • 321 million: Current estimated population of the U.S. • 366.7 million: Estimated population of the U.S. in 2035 • 41 million: Current total number of U.S. immigrants • 13,588: Total number of U.S. school districts • 49.5 million: Public school enrollment as of SY 2011-12 • 52.1 million: Estimated enrollment in SY 2023-24 • $53,000: Median annual salary for U.S. households • 15.4: Percentage of population below the poverty line • 16 million: Number of children below the poverty line • 30.3 million: Students served school lunch daily • 19.1 million: Students receiving free school lunch • $21.3 billion: Total funding for all child nutrition programs For more facts and figures relating to school meals, purchase a copy of the 2015 edition of SNA’s Little Big Fact Book, available now at www.schoolnutrition.org/bookstore. Kelsey Casselbury is the managing editor of School Nutrition.Illustration by www.istockphoto.com.
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