Like most parents, Michigan resident Rachael Hilliker cares very much about the kinds of foods her kids eat. Hilliker has a three-year-old daughter, Claire, and her fiance is the father of an eight-year-old and 10-year old. All three children attend Michigan’s public school system. So when Hilliker found out about House Bill 4306, she was understandably irate.
“The types of foods kids are going to end up with on their plates is not going to be healthy food,” Hilliker says.
That’s because HB 4306 could be the death knell of fresh, nutritious school meal programs in Michigan. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Dave Agema, mandates that public schools throughout the state must privatize their custodial, transportation, and food services programs. In other words, say goodbye to the lunch lady and freshly prepared, local foods and hello to corporate catering services like Sodexo, Aramark, and Chartwells.
Supporters of HB 4306 claim that privatizing schools’ food service programs is more efficient and cost-effective. If we’re just looking at school meals from a dollars-and-cents perspective (which let’s face it, most supporters of this legislation are), perhaps that logic makes sense. But let’s be real: School lunch isn’t just about the bottom line. Kids consume about half their daily calories while at school, which means these meals can either help or harm students’ health, education, and futures.