the American School Food Service Association’s (ASFSA) À la Carte and Vending Research Program, Summary Report (ASFSA, 2002).

Comparisons between the revenue for à la carte and for vending may be somewhat misleading (see footnote 3).

How the Money Is Used

In assessing how competitive food and beverage funds are used by schools, it is important to distinguish between à la carte sales and revenues and sales from other competitive food and beverage venues. À la carte revenues usually (but not always) accrue to the district SFA, which uses the money to offset deficits in the food service operations or to improve the quality of foods and beverages sold. On the other hand, although revenues from vending and other competitive food and beverage sales venues sometimes accrue to the SFA, they are more likely to accrue to special accounts controlled by school officials for use in supporting various school activities directly to student organizations.4

Use of Competitive Foods Money by School Food Service Authority

In the GAO (2003) survey of 22 schools in 13 school districts, SFA indicated that financial pressures have led them to offer more and “less healthful” à la carte items because these items generate needed revenue. “One School Food Service director said that à la carte sales help her balance the budget. She said the SFA probably sells about $600 a day in à la carte items.”

Similar information was reported in a 2002 School Nutrition Association (then ASFSA) study on school à la carte and vending sales (ASFSA, 2002). SFA stated that à la carte sales had a number of positive impacts. In particular, study participants reported that the revenue from sales of competitive foods allowed

  • more price flexibility and higher pricing margins;

  • greater overall revenue;

  • opportunities for offering items such as branded foods, which respond to student preferences, but cannot be offered under the standard reimbursable meal; and

  • opportunities to be more responsive to student requests in menu offerings.


For additional information on the split of monies across different sources, see ASFSA (2002, pp. 27 and 47).

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