Published on September 29th, 2011 | by Max Gumbel0
Food for thought at the Vikes’ Inn
Restrictions on the types of foods students can purchase are designed by administration to create a “healthier” Samo. However, the consumption of sugary foods helps support on-campus organizations such as the Vikes’ Inn, where students gather money for their business through selling such foods.
“We have had many restrictions for the better, like reducing the total calories from fat in popcorn,” Regional Occupational Program (ROP) teacher Teri Jones, who works with the Vikes’ Inn students, said. “But many of these restrictions seem less needed and only decrease our revenue.”
With off-campus lunch available from sophomore year onward, the Vikes’ Inn is forced to compete with food venues in Samo’s vicinity. The food restrictions on campus only increase the gap between the Vikes’ Inn and neighboring businesses.
“[Vikes’ Inn and Cafe] already competes with vending machines and businesses across the street,” Jones said. “With too many restrictions, a student with an off-campus pass might just hop on down to Tommy’s where the food is much less nutritious.”
According to Jones, a dependence on off-campus eating would not only lower the revenue of the school district, but also that of Samo as a school. In the fluctuating economy, she says, the school system cannot afford this.
In addition, recent movements to eliminate sugary foods from the school system, such as the chocolate milk ban, would prove detrimental to the Vikes’ Inn. According to Jones, if the chocolate milk ban had passed, the Vikes’ Inn’s revenue for this year would be even lower.
Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) Food Services, however, does not make the majority of these decisions.
“Our dietary regulations are based on California state laws, as well as the wellness policy,” SMMUSD Nutrition Specialist Dona Richwine said. “The state legislature passed two Senate bills, one regarding food sold at school cafeterias, the other regarding beverages.”
SMMUSD Director of Food Services Orlando Griego says that these bills were the reason for the ban on soda sale during school hours, despite the popularity of the drinks on campus. However, the sale of other sweet and permitted drinks like IZZE and Switch has attempted to compensate for the soda restriction. The school still offers soda, but only before and after school hours, abiding by the laws set down.
“We do put in policies that go beyond state requirements,” Griego said. “But these are for the best. Instead of serving the mandatory three-quarter cup of fruit and vegetables, for example, the district offers two cups.”
It is also in the district’s best interest to keep a high school business program, that has won international competitions, funded and running. According to Jones, ROP eliminates a $12,000 yearly budget item by maintaining the Vikes’ Inn and is revenue neutral or positive. If more and more restrictions pass, and ROP funding lacks, the district could face a financial dilemma.
But revenue and state laws are certainly not the only things that motivate SMMUSD Food Services, ROP and Vikes’ Inn.
“Sometimes it is an issue of kids’ health and well-being versus the money,” Jones said. “And above all, we are here for the good of the students.”