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How Brands Like Domino’s Profit From School Lunch


We hear a lot about school lunches in America and the food itself doesn’t always get the best reputation When I think about school lunches I think of boiled hamburgers The cheese was always like plasticy The staler it was, the more delicious it was From Hollywood depictions to real-life memories, the school cafeteria is a quintessential part of American culture But who decides what food gets put on the tray and how come one school serves this on a dollar 25 budget while another serves this Why are teachers working at McDonald’s for a night and how does a slice of Domino’s Pizza meet USDA guidelines Those are all loaded questions with complicated answers but if you really boil it down the answer is money, lots and lots of
money Today the 4.9 billion lunches that get doled out in school cafeterias every year make up a multi-billion dollar industry that makes sure millions of k ids are fed It starts with Federal money but on its way to cafeterias, school districts have to order the meals and food giants grab a big slice of the school lunch pie But before we get to all of this The food fight sweeping school cafeterias, going from tray to trash Let’s go back to the 1800s In 1853, the Children’s Aid Society of New York started an informal lunch program for its vocational school but it wasn’t until the 1930s that school lunches really caught on in the rest of the country In about the 1890s, you see a real expansion and the role of schools and community is
when they actually start to become social institutions and so, in addition to basic education they’re also providing health services and one of the things that happens when you know physicians and nurses start working in schools they start documenting all kinds of cases of things like malnourishment In 1935, Congress set aside money for school lunch programs Not everyone in the community supported the government’s efforts to feed kids during the day Restaurant owners sued school districts
for lost business The courts typically sided in favor of the school’s right to operate lunch rooms And by 1941, roughly six million kids were eating food provided by the government That food came from products farmers had too much of like pork, dairy, and wheat, a win for both schools and farmers In the ’40s, the Federal government passes the National School Lunch Act and this makes it possible to actually fund the programs predominantly with public money National School Lunch Program in thousands of schools for millions of American children By this time, other countries around the world had already developed their own school lunch systems While the U.S. took the lead from European countries, there was one thing that made school lunches in the U.S. distinctly American a hint of capitalism The fundamental basis for school lunches was a sort of business model They often adopted like little tokens like little coins or use like tickets of some sort that you know paying kids would buy and then kids who were receiving free lunches would be given the ticket but the idea is that you were exchanging something, there was a transaction Enter the School Lunch Lobby Today you have groups like the School Nutrition Association and National School Boards Association advocating on behalf of the schools In corporations like Tyson and PepsiCo show face at meetings to make sure their products are in school districts minds Meanwhile, groups like the Food Research Action Center and the Center on Budget and Priorities keep a close watch on nutrition Robert Doar worked as a commissioner under Mayor Bloomberg where he administered food assistance programs in New York City And he’s no stranger to the lobbying efforts in the world of government assistance It is true that the interests here are not only what’s best for low income families, the other interests are the various providers of food This is true of anything we do in government, anytime the Federal government is extending significant dollars on a product people that sell that product you’re gonna be interested in maximizing that spending In 1966, Congress passed the Child Nutrition Act expanding the school lunch program In 1969, about 15% of kids were getting their lunch for free or at a lower price In fiscal year 2017, that number had risen to 73% That meant that millions of trays needed to be filled every day and that created a business opportunity School lunch programs really start to move away from scratch cooking and toward this kind of factory prepared meal that’s been reheated and then served to them And then came the funding fights which led
to the infamous ketchup controversy In 1981, The Reagan administration wanted to cut $1 billion in school lunch funding In order to meet the nutritional guidelines while staying on a budget, the Department of Agriculture got creative and declared ketchup a vegetable The backlash was so strong the funding cut was quickly reversed, but ketchup hasn’t been the only product to stretch the definition of what makes a vegetable Even today, some school pizza sauces
count as a serving of veggies French fries obviously are made out of potatoes and potatoes are a vegetable That was another defeat I would say that the USDA experienced because of industry lobbying Yes, fries still count as a veggie, frozen potato wedges are on the USDA’s vegetable list for child nutrition programs Those bags of frozen foods have to come from somewhere which is where companies like Tyson come in The company, valued at more than $21 billion, saw the opportunity and acted Tyson has its own k12 poduct catalog of frozen foods made just for school cafeterias We reached out to Tyson for comment and to see how much of their business comes from its k12 food products The company didn’t respond and it’s k12 earnings aren’t specified in its annual report but frozen foods aren’t the only way to cash in on school lunches In 2014, the USDA came up with something called smart snack guidelines, making the snack line healthier Which meant if big food companies wanted to keep their products in schools they had to adapt Now nearly every major food manufacturer in the U.S. has a catalogue of products custom-made to meet USDA standards We felt like kids were getting exposed to these brands you know like Frito-Lay brands and then they would go to the grocery store and want to buy that brand and it’s not the same product We did a study where we really put the two products side by side Just looking at that it’s super obvious that the companies really made no effort to distinguish the one they were selling in school versus the one you could buy in the store The product on the left labeled special edition is sold in schools, it has 7 grams of sugar, vitamin C 25% The product on the right sold in stores has 10 grams of sugar, the vitamin C in this one is just 10% And those custom-made foods aren’t just in the snack line Domino’s has a special smart slice program with pizzas tailor-made to meet USDA standards and the more pizzas schools buy, the more
rewards points they wrack up Those can be traded and for Domino’s swag and even cafeteria equipment Domino’s told us, quote, We are proud of our school lunch product It meets the USDA guidelines for school nutrition standards and is something that kids love to eat It is also good for the schools as it is simple for them to serve and keeps lunch participation rates high It also said that schools make the choice as to whether to serve their pizza branded or unbranded Remember the SNA, one of the lobbies on behalf of schools, they’re listed as a smart slice partner And it’s worth mentioning Domino’s, Tyson and a number of other major food companies are SNA industry members meaning they pay money for monthly newsletters advertising discounts and just a local legislative contacts The SNA said, quote, While many schools are working to increase the amount of freshly prepared and scratch-made menu items those with limited equipment and labor resources rely on healthy pre-prepared foods to ensure students receive balanced meals each day Corporate money reaches far beyond the lunchroom It works its way into schools’ sporting events and celebrations through fundraisers Think of scoreboards, parking lot signs, and pizza parties or that summer reading program Krispy Kreme sponsors a major fundraising program too and McDonald’s has a McTeacher’s Night fundraising program where teachers come in to work the counter in hopes that their kids come in to see them It caught a lot of flack from school districts with LA’s ending the program altogether but some schools still participate None of those companies returned our request for comment So why do people care so much Schools need food and big companies have it but the childhood obesity rate has more than tripled since the 1970s And with roughly 30 million kids getting their lunch from a government funded program it raises the question, what responsibility does the government have to make their meals healthy In 2010, Michelle Obama spearheaded a major change in the system with the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act We have an obligation to make sure that those meals are as nutritious as possible It tightened nutrition guidelines for cafeterias across the country, requiring them to serve more fruits and vegetables At first, its noble intentions were praised but some took issue with how it actually played out in lunch rooms across the country Kids throw food away at about the same rate as the rest of America but after the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act people just started noticing it more More kids were taking fruit it went up significantly but the same proportion was getting eaten and thrown away So more is getting eaten and more is getting thrown away Schools seem to be caught in the cycle of a lack of funding, kitchen training, and time While there are Federal regulations, the menus really come from the schools on the local level They’re the ones ordering and preparing the food and since it’s decentralized it’s hard to know which companies are making the most money and if kids are really getting fed quality meals But some people are trying to change that on a local level Dan Giusti is the former head chef of Noma where he created high-end meals for hundreds of dollars a person Now he’s running a group called Brigade working to bring scratch cooking, not just warming stations, to kitchens on a $1.25 budget And he’s trying to change the reputation of school lunches altogether It’s almost like it’s this rite of passage like as a student in an institution like its just what you get, you get lousy food In May 2018, the Trump administration rolled back some of the rules around whole grains, sodium and flavored milks to give schools more flexibility in their meal planning The politics, money and controversy around school lunches aren’t going away But at the end of the day, the kids are the ones it really impacts And for some school lunches are the best meal they’re going to get throughout the day These kids are showing up to school everyday but at home they’re not eating and it makes you rethink everything like holidays like oh 3 day weekend, great But that means that these kids aren’t eating for 3 days, or snow days But that means that not only are these kids not eating but they are also at home in an environment that’s probably not good for them Studies have shown that if kids are fed, they perform better in school and with millions of kids relying on free or low-cost lunches every day it’s a big, important problem to solve

Stephen Childs

100 Comments

  1. Sitting on the computer or game console didnt exist in the 70s. I don't think big food giants are to blame for fat children… maybe technology and parenting instead.

  2. it's an overpopulation problem. a country is like a family. more kids, hard to manage

  3. I used to only eat at school because that was the only food I will get sometimes the food was terrible

  4. Ppl here are sooo spoiled, I used to LOVE breakfast and lunch at my high school

  5. Feeling really happy with my French lunch who include a fruit, a yogurt, meat or fish, vegetables, and occasionally a little cake

  6. I went private. We could pick between a chicken sandwich or nuggets from Chick-fil-A baby! 👍😄👍

  7. Why cant we drink coke for Lunch its nasty drinking milk after eating a burger

  8. you guys think obesity will be solved or decreased by making school foods healthier?
    pretty sure theres a lot of people that walk home and stop by a store to get some candy or some unhealthy foods
    school shouldn't even try to change their food for obesity rates LOL

  9. For some reason my school lunches look like reality and this video looks like your expectation

  10. I wonder how rich kids eat during their lunch break? Do they have chefs cooking for them in school 🤔

  11. In my school £2.50 ($3) can get you dessert, water and main dish. The variety of food is large (sandwiches, noodles, rice, fried chicken, pizza, potato, pie, lasagna etc.), big portions and actually tastes good for school food. During morning break they also sell toast, crumpets and fruit.

  12. The school food in america is disgusting!! I will never complain about my free food in school because it is nowhere near this bad

  13. All I see is government growth making it shittier at the job it already does.

  14. The only reason the school lunch program is so ineffective is because it's run by government

  15. And then no options for kids with dietary restrictions… Dad was too cheap to let me bring lunches from home and I couldn't eat anything they served so I just waited till I was home to eat… 7 hours of not eating… At the beginning of highschool I'd buy a sugary bagel before class for a dollar because the high amount of sugar made my stomach numb long enough to not feel starving throughout the day. I wouldn't feel hunger till dinner time…

  16. Prison Business: works great for business, bad for the population and crime rate
    School food business: works great for business, bad for the population and obesity
    Healthcare Business: works great for Business, bad for the population

    Thats something, that socialism makes better.
    not in its purity, but combined with a good amount of capitalism.

  17. I dont realy understand whats wrong with america. All i see is crappy food served in lots of plastik. In europ (wher i live) food is served in normal dishes and not plastik and the food tasts fairly great ( mostly salt missing) and there are usually two courses and salad and a desert. 😂

  18. As a former vending machine operator who worked to keep my snack and drink offerings USDA compliant in my public school machine, I was always baffled at how fruit snacks would show up in my supplier catalogs as USDA school-approved, but fail the nutrition test I used to qualify vending snacks. Now I know the secret. Capitalism 😐
    Big corporations get to cheat while I had to follow the rules. God bless America 😠

  19. It’s not the lunches that’s causing childhood obesity. It’s the stagnant lifestyles and usually neglectful parents. Do kids even get recess anymore?

  20. My high school started making their own food and gave us fresh fruit and vegetables

  21. My HS lunches were outstanding And anytime the feds get involved it’s only about money What % actually is used vs stolen

  22. when i was in school we had a food line that you paid extra dollar you could get better food. There were a few weeks out of the year that we had a high end chef come in and make meals for us. I had some of the best food I have ever tasted for $3 during my high school years.

  23. Not joking I paid $3.25 for 4 chicken nuggets a milk carton and three strawberries

  24. So how can Americans grow so well when they are eating something like that…

  25. Meanwhile here in Sweden, we dont even have pizzas in schools 😂

  26. What happened to lunch box made by our mother who cares about there children lol

  27. THe point is the school is not here to take care of your kid. So many say food should be free. ITS YOUR JOB as a parent to feed your kid. dont like what the school offers. Pack your kid their own lunch. Its not anyone elses job to feed your kid but you.. they are in school to learn.

  28. I'm sure kids would rather have the cardboard pizzas I had than Dominos, when if the funding was the same.

    This video had a strong veneer of anti-Capitalism, despite some of these companies' efforts to make lunch healthier and tastier for kids.

  29. One time in elementary school there were serving pizza but the pizza taste soggy and it didn’t taste that good

  30. No Children in America goes hungry it a MYTH. Cut the Welfares program completely they're just thought since childhood to Free louders and remain till they die. All Muslims Countries are boomed and Millions of Children are killer dying without Medicines and food.Their Countries resources stolen to feed America and european Christians Jews. All their Parents must cook at home. They are all free Loaders the more they get the more they want. The free money they received in the name of mighty Children is unbelievable and their whole famiies thrives on it and party every weekend. All so called poor neighborhood shopping carts are fully loaded to Max will luxury food items every weekend and Free loads carts also comes from Churches every week again in the name of hungry Children. How mush do these Children eat and still hungry. IF their uneducated parents will cook at home they'll save lot of money.

  31. Bring your own food and pay your school tuition fees. Cook all meals at home and be grateful and thankful to God.

  32. In sweden the school lunches are free and most of the time healthy! The majority of schools in sweden never serve pizza or fries etc, and there’s always a salad bar toghether soups, boiled potatoes, stews, meatballs etc etc. I feel bad for all the americans that get this kind of food

  33. The only thing that everybody liked in my school was that you could choose the color tray. It was a battle between, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.

  34. At my school, you have to take a real fruit or vegetable before paying. And yes my school does serve fries and ketchup.

  35. In finland we have a free school lunch and it is still delicious. Over 20 different meal variations. Every day i can take main course, salad, bread and water or milk. There is also vegetable variation of the main course. It is like a buffet, you can eat as much as you can. I think every school should get a system like this. Maybe bigger taxes, but it is better that everyone pays meals for students.

  36. Here's an idea….bring your own god damned food to school like a normal kid.

  37. My school put chicken in every single salad, as a vegetarian, it sucks. I haven’t had school lunch in a while.

  38. Its always all about money! The major corporations and banks own our governments!

  39. It's unprofessional for those giant companies not to at least reply to your comment.

  40. Why can’t moms/dads/guardians pack healthy lunches for kids? It’s not that hard…I feel we need some microwaves in schools so kids can warm /someone can help them warm there lunches…..

  41. We never have frenchfries or burgers we have potatoes and rice.Nobody eats them

  42. This was a fascinating insight into the world of school lunches. I'm from the U.K and recently (past decade) there has been serious lobbying in Westminster with regards to the standards of healthy food items we give our children. Jamie Oliver is often considered to be a pioneer of this, however the controversy rises when he himself still promotes / uses high fat, sugar, and carb heavy meals in his books and restaurants. He seemingly wanted to make things "healthier" but he didn't consider how that singled our children from low income households or poorly funded public schools

  43. I am so thankfull for being in a private school and having a nice worm breakfeast and lunch
    I am so mad at myself bc somethimes i wouldnt like the food that they give us after hearing this i am so thanlfull

  44. kids being fed = better performance in school.
    school = brainwashing
    makes ya wonder

  45. Obesity in this country really got out of hand when they decided that we should eat all that bread and carbs at the bottom of the food pyramid.

  46. 1853: Wow! I love my school for being so generous!
    2019: LETS THROW OUR FOOD AT THE NERD GUYS!

  47. I feel pity for you Americans. In Vietnam breakfasts, lunches are sold fresh and cheap from the cafeteria. You got all kinds of fresh noodle, soup, pho, fried rice, fried chicken,… basically all of the standard Vietnamese dishes for only $1 each

  48. How about dem parents are held responsible for not feeding their damn kids?

  49. Michelle Obama spent 8 years to get kids outside….Nintendo did it in a day with Pokemon Go. Lol. I think we are really missing the fact that this is an example of crony capitalism and that schools have become money pits. Why do I say that? Cause even the cafeteria workers have a union and therefore make way more money which puts a strain on the school budget as a whole. When I went to a charter school during my middle school years the food was made fresh because and outside vendor had to make the food each day. When food was late or bad that vendor lost money. School lunch workers mostly get tax dollars and our dollars again when we buy lunch and the food still sucks. So how can we fix it? For starters get the feds and corporate out of the lunch room. Why are we letting the government who cant even get on GOOGLE decide or rate the budget? Clearly food budgets need to be controlled by states and not feds.

  50. Lunch was only a $1.20 when I was in elementary school. I remember I was eating school lunch and my classmate mother was watching me eat it with a disgusted look on her face. I’ll never forget it.

  51. Conveinently little to these peoples knowledge, the Gov't and Obama's "free food" policies under it drove these insensitives in the 1st place! It's a vicious cycle.

  52. Okayy…so I'm from a private school in India and here we have free school lunches up to grade 5, then we can just buy food from our canteen. Even though it's not extremely cheap for us we get like a full roll for 40 cents and a patty for like 10 cents

  53. I honestly think school lunches should be free especially for private schools because we are already paying just to be there

  54. I don’t think any of us care where it comes from as long as it doesn’t look like it got trown up and then put on the plate.

  55. I had the same dry chicken tenders from preschool to 10th grade (after which I got an off block and didn’t eat school lunch) I would have LOVED scratch cooking.

  56. When we spend 500 billion on war and less then 15 billion on lunch for kids

  57. This is not true I worked at Domino’s Pizza for a few years as a manager. Our profit margins are so slim that we barley break even. It’s more for the kids that enjoy our product that we do it then to profit off of it.

  58. Plus we have to use low sodium toppings and wheat dough which is much more expensive then our traditional toppings.

  59. School lunch is sometimes horrible in my school a couple kids including me found human HAIR in the food. Not kid hair the lunch ladies hair in there. And they aren’t even wearing hair nets. So I could have called someone.

  60. My school has days called “funlunch” so instead of school meals it’s some kind of food from a restaurant

  61. My public school lunch was good lol. We had stuff like orange chicken, lasagna, etc.

  62. Why do they always say kids only eat at school and not at home. Come on, this is a lie.

  63. At latvian schools they make the food themselfs well the workers like boiled potatoes with sauce salad and fish juice and a dessert :3 so in latvia btw better i guess they count everything we need

  64. People in prison get free lunches why don't we. I mean we are basically in prison

  65. Who else is watching but there school doesn't serve the food and needs to bring there own lunch ;-;

  66. There is no way in hell the kids want to eat food that the United States government provide them.

  67. So who are the 2k people who dislike this video??? Food industry?

    I had school food as an adult, and the food is so salty I couldn't eat it, and we ask why kids are not only getting fatter, they are getting sicker… High blood pressure, diabetes… From corporate greed and the government who is too easily persuaded with cheap and low nutritional values foods. Start cooking real food again please.

  68. Im still pissed Trump rolled back healthy lunches for kids in school. WTF! These Republicans are obsessed with money and donations, straight evil.

  69. all the food is showing is so DRIES & always fries food
    I can eat it this type of food for a couple day or maybe 1week but for everyday?! i'm not to be mean or rude i'm not disrespect to anyone but i'm about VOMIT if i have eat dries fries potato, dries bread/hamburger & fries chickens like this day after days, year after years!
    i'm Vietnamese, Vietnamese people can't eat if there is no veggies & green soups for daily meals.
    Eating same hamburger, same pizza for everyday is torturing lolz 😂
    btw 10.55 RICE FRIES WITH MIX VEGGIES look yummy, if they serve a small soups bowl then it would be perfect!!

  70. Was parked outside a high school during lunch. Saw lots of delivery drivers pulling up with food for the students. Parents bringing McDonalds. This was unheard of when I was in school. Guess the kids are ordering on their cell phones. More power to them
    Boy, times have changed

  71. My school had pizza with grease bowls for pepperonis, i legit had the dab the oil off my pizza with the napkin

  72. I went to a school where we had to pay 10$ per lunch and the food made us well sick the food was taken off the table but the damage was already done,we changed schools for a different reason though we also didnt get any ketchup,salt or pepper because it was too expensive,but the teachers get those for FREE

  73. And BROKE ASS CPS GIVES US 4 CHICKEN NUGGETS, 4 FRIES and some watered down milk

  74. Be grateful for what you had. There is a lot of people eating your leftovers in garbage.

  75. At my school in Canada, we have to pay for all of our lunches, but most people just pack their own lunches.
    Stuff is just really expensive, it’s 4$ for a slice of pizza, 50c for milk, and 1.50$ for a brownie or two cookies. We have fruit and salad, but nobody buys that stuff. We also have a special daily meal, like Mac’n’ cheese with a side of salad and a cookie. And, yes, we have pizza every day.

  76. You say that they're trying to give us good pizza, but then at my old California school REPLACED THE GOOD PIZZA WHICH WAS DOMINOS OR LITTLE CAESARS WITH PLASTIC so shut up about that, the cheese, the sauce, the dough is plastic and the pepperoni is mediocre, almost on the level of plastic

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