L.I.F.T is a learning community in the West Charlotte corridor of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System. The learning community is the namesake of Project L.I.F.T, which is a $55 million dollar non-profit educational initiative. The purpose of Project L.I.F.T and the development of the learning community is to improve performance amongst its 9 schools, as well as bridge some of the opportunity gaps that children in the community face. Here is a look at some of the L.I.F.T demographics:
9 LIFT Schools:
Child Nutrition Services
Child Nutrition Services is a CMS department in charge of all meals and meal related transaction within the county (LIFT included). Child Nutrition Services is a $67 million non-profit operation, consisting of nearly 1400 employees. The service manages the operations of USDA funds from the National School Lunch Program and the Community Eligibility Provision. Child Nutrition Services is also responsible for the CMS Universal Free Breakfast, Nutrition Education, Procurement for Food and Equipment, and the Summer Food Service programs.
“The mission of Child Nutrition Services is to contribute to a successful academic experience and encourage a lifetime of healthy eating for each student by providing affordable meals that are nutritious, appealing and served by caring professionals in a pleasant environment.”
What the Kids are Eating
The nutritional values and calorie allowances for each meal are determined by Child Nutrition Services dietitians based on figures set by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service and the National School Lunch Program. USDA cash subsidies are provided based on the number of free or reduce lunch schools in a system. Since all the LIFT schools are classified as CEP, Child Nutrition Services receives benefits for all Nine LIFT schools.
Winners… and Losers?
The fact of the matter of the situation for many families in LIFT is that the LIFT Nutrition program plays a significant role in the eating habits of the children. Because of the median wage of the parents, most kids rely on the Universal Free Breakfast and school lunch during their school work. Though the program in place is better than the alternative of having no program at all, one must question who benefits more from this program: the children and the LIFT community or the county and government systems that implement the plan in the first place? A good place to start to question is where the majority of the stakeholders lie. On the government and policy side of things you have the USDA and all the hands that play a role in setting Nutrition standards. You have CMS and the Child Nutrition services, who both benefit from cash subsidies and the LIFT schools being CEP. On the community side you have the LIFT children and their parents, as well as Child Nutrition Services employees who live in the area. With this imbalance of stakeholders, one must at the very least be skeptical of who the system is truly meant to serve.