Even major fast food chains are hard pressed to sell a full lunch for under $4, so the challenge to McCaskey High School to provide a nourishing midday meal to about 70% of its teenagers for $1.25 is daunting.
For restaurants, food cost as a percentage of price usually ranges from 30% to 35%. So a restaurant charging $4 would be spending as much just for the raw food as McCaskey has to spend for handling, preparing, serving, cleaning up and managing!
On April 29, NewsLanc's publisher (who has experience in the restaurant business) observed the following at the tidy and clean kitchen, the cafeteria, and the dining room at J. P. McCaskey:
The hot meal of the day consisted of a brownish concoction described as Asian Chicken, with beans on the side, a choice of string beans or raw carrots or a piece of fruit or 6 ounce juice, plus milk.
A gal was heard to say "The chicken looks good" and a guy retorted "The chicken looks like sh--." The daily hot special, if not necessarily appetizing, was wholesome and nourishing, the portion sizes ample for most girls if marginal for many boys.
Under a federal government subsidy program, over 70% of the McCaskey students qualify for reduced-price meals and pay only $.40 for the $1.25 fixed price lunch, with some qualifying to receive it free. As an alternative to the meal, they could have chosen a hot dog on a bun or a Rib-B-Que, for which there seemed to be little demand. (To look at it was to understand why.)
According to Donna Perry, Cafeteria Manager, instead of the subsidized hot meal the students could choose from four cold sandwiches, an alternative hot sandwich, or hot dogs which are popular.
Non-subsidized food includes a salad bar that looked reasonably good charging $2.50 for a plate or $1.25 for a bowl. (Later, a student warned that the salad bar was not properly replenished and students with a later lunch period did not find it appetizing.)
Also there are sandwiches and wraps comparable to what is offered daily on the shelves of convenient food stores priced as follows: Tuna fish, egg and cheese on English muffin - $1.25; turkey and cheese - $1.15; peanut gutter and jelly - $1.00; and a variety of wraps - $1.75.
Hot fixed price $1.25 lunches for the week of May 5th consist of: Monday - Chicken Rondolet on roll, sandwich fixings, baby carrots, fresh fruit; Tuesday - "Breakfast for lunch," home fries, scrambled eggs, sausage, bread, fruit; Wednesday - Hot ham & cheese on roll, baby carrots w / dip, fresh fruit; Thursday - "stir fry bar," chicken or beef stir fry, rice, roll & butter, fruit; Friday - Pizza, vegetables w / dip, fresh fruit.
The menu for the fixed price hot $1.25 feature for each day in May can be found here.
According to Matt Przywara, CPA, Business Manager of the SD of L, "The food service operation is self-supporting. The income taken in supports the cost of all meals (subsidies & monies received by students.)" Grades 9-12 pay $1.25 for a full paid lunch; $.40 for a reduced lunch; $.80 for full paid breakfasts and $.30 for reduced breakfasts.