SCUSD sells out

The Sacramento City Unified School District is serving up advertising in its new school lunch menus.

The Sacramento City Unified School District is serving up advertising in its new school lunch menus.

The Sacramento City Unified School District has developed brand-new full-color school menus that let you know what’s for lunch and include a bunch of nifty advertising for the big food companies that sell their products to the district.

The district did away with paper menus years ago, because of the cost and because more and more families were choosing to look up the information online.

But now they’re back! And the new menus are chock-full of branding. For example, the first Monday was Foster Farms chicken dippers day. Wednesday was Wild Mike’s Hawaiian pizza day. On Thursday, the lunch ladies were slinging Manwich “beefy” sloppy Joe sliders, and on Friday, kids who got there early macked on Pillsbury Cherry Frudel for breakfast. Whatever Frudel is.

On the flip side, the new menus sport company logos and blurbs for each of the month’s “featured suppliers.

Hey, kids, did you know that Fosters Farms chicken “is handled without any fundamental alterations or exposure to radiation”? Awesome!

So what’s the district get in return for delivering ad copy to this captive audience?

District media guy Gabe Ross told me that the suppliers have agreed to pay for the costs of printing and delivering the full-color flyers to each of students’ families. The menus are expected to cost about $8,000 a year to produce and distribute. That’s compared to the $0 the district spent last year distributing full-color paper menus.

I get it. Not everyone has Internet access, and every family needs good information with which to plan meals.

But has the lack of paper menus really been an issue for SCUSD families—low income or otherwise? And most businesses and government agencies are trying to go paperless these days—or to at least cut down on the amount of dead trees and litter they create, not introduce more.

It seems like if you’re going to strike an advertising deal with a bunch of corporations (and in the process take a big step backward in your efforts to reduce waste), you’d at least give the parents a heads-up. Are we getting a good deal from the advertisers? Should the SCUSD board of trustees at least take a look? Nah, you’re right. Why gum up the works with public input?

But here’s the part that bothers me: Where in the hell are the damn menus? It’s three weeks in, and my family has yet to actually see one of the exciting new corporate-sponsored beauties.

Compiled from Snog.