In the News: The Trouble with School Lunches


By: , SparkPeople Blogger

Have you seen the USDA's report on the National School Lunch Program? Marion Nestle's What to Eat blog tipped me off to the report and its findings.
According to the report, which referenced several studies about the school lunch program, the U.S. has not a dilemma but a trilemma: nutrition, cost and participation.

Among the findings:
  • The correlation between weight gain and eating school lunches is inconclusive; however, those students who eat school lunch consume more fat, sodium and calories than those students who don't.

  • One study found that "a substantial share of school meal providers are not ensuring that foods meet the recommended levels of fat and sodium."

  • Schools often supplement lunch programs with outside food (soda and other snack foods in vending machines) as a way to offset costs. However, "several studies show that schools could reduce the fat content of foods offered and increase consumption of underconsumed foods, such as milk and vegetables, while still maintaining revenue levels and (national school lunch program) participation levels."

  • Some good news: Enrollment in the free and reduced-cost school lunches has increased.
Thinking back to my school's hot lunch, my stomach turns. Fake mashed potatoes and starchy white dinner rolls with thin, greasy gravy; tacos made with greasy meat, a pile of American cheese shreds and a sprinkling of iceburg lettuce; squares of pizza piled high with cheese, sausage and pepperoni bits. Meats and starchy white bread dominated the menu; fresh fruit and vegetables never made an appearance.

The fruit was mostly canned (in heavy syrup) and the vegetables were salty, mushy and drowning in margarine. I grew up in a small town (and went to school in an impoverished district), and I haven't seen the inside of a school cafeteria in a decade. Has much changed? Are we still feeding our kids hockey-puck hamburgers and frozen salads? (Yes, the salads were actually frozen. Needless to say, I was a "packer.")

With kids heading back to school any day now, it's the perfect time to examine their lunch (and yours, too). Is your child getting a balanced meal at school? Is the lunch menu dominated by tacos, pizza, and hamburger gravy (the staples of my school's hot lunches), or are vegetables, salads, and healthy entrees available? Does your child eat lunch from a vending machine, or does she bring a healthy meal from home?

Whether your child is a packer or a buyer, read about how to make his lunch more nutritious:

The School Lunch Dilemma

Thinking Outside the Lunch Box

Fun and Filling Lunches To Go

How do you ensure your child eats a healthy, well-balanced lunch away from home? Do you have any tips or secrets? Share them in the comments below.

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  • 68
    How sad to read all the comments about horrible school lunches. Please know it is not like that everywhere. Just like everything else in public schools, we all get a bad rap because some are terrible. In our school, our cooks prepare fresh, wholesome food everyday. Homemade, whole wheat breads and muffins are served, along with fresh fruits, salads, fresh veggies, and homemade soup. No desserts are served, except on Fridays, when fresh cookies come out of the oven just in time for lunch. Nothing is prepackaged. Milk is a choice between non-fat and 1%. We feed all children a free breakfast and lunch. Are we the exception? I don't think so. Look around for the good, and if it isn't there, insist on it. Serving healthy meals isn't that hard to do. - 3/29/2010   1:47:14 AM
  • 67
    I was raised by my grandmother who cooked a full breakfast and dinner everyday so as a child I was exposed to balanced meals. She now watching my son during the day and he is accustom to the same. I dread the day the goes to big boy school because I know that he will be exposed to what he knows as "sometimes foods" every day. We are teaching our children the same bad habits that we are here trying to break. Many people say children will not eat healthy foods but I question is it that they will not eat it or that they have never had it. And since when do we as parents let our children dictate. We have to make a stand one school at a time to make sure we are not passing on obesity and health problems to another generation. - 3/25/2010   2:00:11 PM
  • 66
    I'm a school teacher in a high poverty district, so the majority of the kids in my school eat breakfast and lunch thanks to the federal school lunch program. For a significant number of them, this is all that they eat in a day, and the food that we serve is, in my not-so-humble opinion, unfit for human consumption. We need more parents and community members organizing to demand that our children are fed "food," that is, things that your grandma would have recognized as food. - 3/25/2010   1:47:32 PM
  • 65
    My daughter starts kindergarten in the fall and I'm terrified of school lunches! She's definitely going to be packing her lunch unless something changes soon. She'll probably be mad at me because she's going to want to eat all the crappy stuff like her friends, but she'll thank me later :)

    Thankfully I began my lifestyle change before she was old enough to get into unhealthy eating habits. - 3/25/2010   10:13:30 AM
  • 64
    I've only been out of school two years, it has not improved, most areas serve pizza and maybe, MAYBE a sandwitch made of lunch meat, that was the healthiest option avaliable. It's sad, and I doubt very much will change it, pack your kids lunch. trust me. - 11/19/2009   9:37:10 PM
  • 63
    I work in our school's cafeteria also...most of our meals are healthy, IMHO, we serve a lot of fresh or frozen veggies in place of the salt-ladden canned ones, almost all fresh fruit - any canned fruit is in light syryp, meats are lean, NO soda, water is available, chips can be bought extra but are all the baked ones, not fried. Yes, they get pizza once per month and chicken nuggets, but they are good quality ones (I have read the labels). Salads are always available and CAN be pre ordered the day before even for the free/reduced kids. I guess we are lucky!! - 11/19/2009   7:05:13 AM
  • 62
    When my daughter first started public school, I remember being appalled at "Soft Pretzel with Cheese" on the menu one day. Yes, they offered fresh fruit with it. But really, pretzels. Not even whole wheat. That was before I began my healthy lifestyle. They do discourage soda for cold lunch, which is good. I make my kids take cold lunch if I don't think the menu is healthy. Although sometimes, since at home they eat very well, I allow a splurge day. They love the mozzarella sticks. - 9/29/2009   7:18:19 AM
  • 61
    I work at a public middle school, and I find our school lunches APPALLING. Here in VT, we have a very strong and popular "Farm to Schools" program that provides local school cafeterias with produce from local farms. Schools can get their greens, apples, a HUGE variety of vegetables, and dairy products from local producers for a price matching the big-box pre-fab competition. But does our school participate? Nope! They keep serving chicken nuggets and patties (they look like sponges inside, EW), hamburgers loaded with ammonia-laced filler, gooey slices of cheese pizza, and lots and LOTS of bread. There have even been days when the school lunch was a giant soft pretzel, tater tots, and corn. ???????? Plus there's always ice cream sandwiches and sugary drinks for sale too.

    The teachers make such a huge deal about making healthy choices, but then the cafeteria doesn't offer any! It's SO sad. - 9/28/2009   8:38:33 PM
  • MCS2008
    I am a manager for a catholic elementary school cafeteria. I actually work through the Archdioces in my area. We a required to serve a balanced meal in order to get reinbursement from the government. Everything has tomeet cerain portion sizes and nutritional values. Yes it is still spagehtti and meatballs, pizza, hamburgers, tacos , chicken nuggets, etc. But we make all our own bread which consistes of at least 80% wheat flour. We bake most products. At one cafeteria I was in they only fried catfish which was offered maybe once a month. We also offer fruits and vegetable s everyday , 2-3 days a week we have a salad bar. So we are trying to make more of an effort. Unfortunately the kids don't like the healthier food they tend to go toward the "fast foods." It is always a struggle to try to make everything seem more appealing so the kids will try to eat it. There is also a state rule in effect that no other competeing food can be sold during the lunch period. So that means no vending machines can be turned on or candy sold or extras like that, so that the kids are not tempted by unhealthier choices. - 8/11/2009   1:43:14 PM
  • 59
    I grew up in the 70's and our school lunches were actually pretty good, we had lunch ladies that cooked homestyle meals from scratch, even homemade yeast rolls. The kids all complained but it was actually pretty tasty.

    It is so much different now, I work in public school and you couldn't pay me to eat the cafeteria food. It is all premade, frozen and heated up before being served.

    I will say this, even when vegetables are served, the kids mostly won't eat them, they are thrown in the garbage. So I don't know what the answer is, they try to serve food that will actually be eaten instead of wasted. The kids will eat the Pizza Sticks, burgers and so on, probably wouldn't touch healthy foods, they have all been raised on McDonald's anyway. - 8/10/2009   6:32:46 PM
    I worked for an elementary school last year as a volunteer and as part of my day, I ate (what i thought) one balanced meal of the day.. I was upset by the waste of the kids. I also doubled on fruits and vegetables; if they were serving a choice I would take both. And the canned fruit they use is no longer in heavy syrup, probably cuz it costs the same. I did hear a rumor that they were doing away with hot lunch but so far its just a rumor. Ill see at my new school this year... But you have to be selective... I cant eat refined sugar and white flour so i didnt take alot of that. Learned the hard way!! Well, I have to see whats for lunch this year. Take care! - 8/10/2009   10:43:44 AM
  • 57
    I went to a private school kindergarten through middle school: no cafeteria. We did have "hot lunch" days once a week (or less frequently) in middle school--a fast food joint would bring in meals for the kids who had pre-paid. My mom allowed that since it was only once a week or so.

    In high school, I remember there being sandwiches, nachos, burgers, salad bar, and pizza every day as well as the rotating hot lunch. The kicker is that milk was included in the price of the hot lunches, but not with the salad bar--making the healthier choice more expensive. I usually stuck to PB&J sandwiches because the rest of the food was so unappetizing (thankfully, both my parents are EXCELLENT cooks). But that was only the 1x or so per week that I bought lunch--the rest of the time I brown-bagged it so I would be guaranteed food I liked (and a nice homemade treat for dessert). - 4/28/2009   12:09:13 AM
  • 56
    I would have killed for a healthy lunch when I was in high school. The lunch line wasnt like a cafeteria in the movies, but rather more like the "snacks" section of the local 7-11. Every day they had a limited number of pre-packaged burgers, mini dominos pizzas, and in the summer 8 (thats righ exactly 8, for a high school of 1600) "salad shakers." The first 8 girls through got salad, everyone else got cup-o-noodle or a frozen burrito.
    Kids in the free/reduced lunch program ate out of a special lunch line (no stigma there...) that offered some attempt at a "freshly made" (may not have been true, but closer than what we got) healthy balanced meal every afternoon.
    Needless to say I packed a lunch every day from 1st grade through graduation. While I hated it then, now all my friends buy lunch every day at the cafe on campus, and I show up with a brown bag fearlessly! - 4/24/2009   10:25:35 AM
  • 55
    This is where we lead by example. Pack a great lunch and start the kids off the right way when they are toddlers. Having a 2 year old she has never had a cookie yet or piece of candy. I was mortified that a parent was about to pour her soda at a church function I ran over and said NO thank you-( I was really thinking your silly idiot dont give soda to anyone) .Dont keep crap in the house and expose them to great foods now. I will have her pack her lunch and make it fancy.
    Once there taste buds know good food they wont eat that crap. We need education systems to offer healthy foods but I live in a small rural area and they dont have that available right now. I worry about all the obese children I see and how they wont live a healthy life in the long run. It sure is a problem we can correct though. - 3/25/2009   9:14:09 AM
  • 54
    I teach in an elementary school. My 20 month old is enrolled in our on site daycare and since it is a federally funded program, they are "required" to server her breakfast and lunch. It makes me sick to think of some of the habits she is picking up at such a young age. Some of the things schools serve are NASTY! However, they do the best with what they can afford. I am glad my daughter likes green beans, but she used to hate corn (I was fine with that) and those are two of the most common vegetables served at school. Often the whole tray is "yellow" . I find myself trying to be more cautious about what I serve at dinner because she gets so much junk at lunch (and often breakfast). - 3/4/2009   11:31:09 AM
  • 53
    The lunches here are hamburger, cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, pizza, tacos they have breakfast for lunch one day per month, ... all processed, mostly all greasy. The other option is a PB&J sandwich, the premade ones you buy in the freezer section of the grocery store. Our school system also offers breakfast which is even worse, all processed carbs; pancakes, waffles, muffins they occasionally have eggs and sausage patties. There is hardly any protein in the meals and I use that term loosely, what carbs are there are bad carbs, there are hardly any fruits or veggies offered and what is offered is loaded with salt and sugar. There are vending machines at her school but they are in the teachers area behind lock and key - 2/13/2009   9:38:59 AM
  • 52
    I dint have a cafeteria until I hit high school (I lived in a small town until I was 15, home was a 5-10 minute walk or bike ride). Sometimes, I had to stay at school when I was younger, I usually had a packed lunch. Once a month, some parents(including mine) would pay certain amount of money to have a hot lucnh provided from the local hotel (kids size meal), hamburger, fries and a healthy drink, but that was a real treat. Otherwise it was a sandwich, fruit/veggies/har-boiled egg, treat sized chocolate, and a minute maid juice box. - 2/9/2009   10:22:01 AM
  • 51
    I also work at a school.

    The free lunches include a "main course" a piece of fruit, a bag of baked chips, a drink, and a bag of baby carrots.

    Sounds reasonable right?

    Well, a main course is a Soft pretzle with hydrogenated oil cheese flavored dipping sauce. Or a small slice of pizza with a few shreds of imitation cheese and maybe 2 pieces of pea sized pepperoni. Very little if any protein.

    The fruit is always very green, usually too hard to bite into.

    The drinks are either 1% milk, choco or plain and fruit drinks that contain more sugar than fruit.

    The chips are baked, but contain MSG.

    And the carrots. How can they possibly mess up the carrots??

    They are usually SLIMEY.

    Most days I watch the students taste everything, and eat only the chips and drink the fruit drink. Then complain the rest of the day that they are hungry.

    Everything else goes in the trash. The school has a student body of 3,000 and the 20 or so trash cans around the food court usually have to be emptied twice during each lunch. We could feed a COUNTRY with what goes in the trashcans during just one lunch! - 2/7/2009   11:39:26 AM
  • 50
    I haven't worked at USDA in almost a decade, but there are some very dedicated people there trying very hard to get it right. I was intrigued that you started off by pointing out: "According to the report, which referenced several studies about the school lunch program, the U.S. has not a dilemma but a trilemma: nutrition, cost and participation." I got excited because I thought you were going to discuss this "trilemma"but then you did not really explain what this means.

    I did not work on NSLP when I was at USDA, so I don't know the ins and outs of this program the way my former colleagues do, but i will attempt to explain briefly what I know. To quote the report you cited:

    "Improving the nutritional quality of school meals and competitive foods
    may, in principle, be a goal of many NSLP stakeholders, including schools,
    parents, the nutrition community, FNS, and Congress. But meeting this goal
    may raise program costs for parents, localities, or the Federal Government.
    Moreover, even if more nutritious foods are provided, that does not guarantee
    that students will eat them."

    So, one problem is acceptance of the food. Kids tend to like unhealthy foods; many parents do too, or we wouldn't have so many obese adults in the U.S. (I know many adults who don't eat fruits and vegetables, and who feed their kids stuff I wouldn't feed my kids.) If schools offered only healthy foods and students did not want to eat them, those who could might opt out of school lunch and bring their own unhealthy (or slightly healthier) foods from home. The children whose families have higher incomes and pay full price for their lunches subsidize the program for those who receive free or reduced price lunches. USDA provides some funding for the program, but not all (some of it in the form of surplus commodities, I believe). If too many full price kids opt out of school lunch, the school can't make the money needed to provide free and reduced price lunches for those who can't afford to pay, and for whom school lunch may be their best meal of the day. Finally, even if some kids are paying full freight, the overall cost of the lunch needs to be kept under strict control, because an average increase of even 1 cent per meal translates into millions of dollars in added costs for the program as a whole.

    One of the things that surprised me when I started working for USDA was the sheer magnitude of the population receiving food assistance, be it WIC, NSLP, Food Stamps, or any of USDA's smaller and lesser known food assistance programs. With all of its shortcomings, NSLP still provides a much needed free meal for many U.S. children.

    In short, you have to recognize the tradeoff. Making the meals healthier does not ensure their acceptance by children, and children not accepting the food has profound economic implications for the program. Right now, schools are providing what sells. If nobody bought it, they wouldn't sell it. It's not a simple problem to fix. I'm not saying it couldn't be done better, but potential improvements in nutrition quality need to be weighed against their potential impact on participation, and the long-run economic sustainability of the program. Knowing how many good people have staked their careers on this, I believe that if there was an easy fix, they would have already found it. And as for most things in life, we need to put our money where our mouths are. Perhaps if we focus on getting adults to eat right, they will provide better role models for kids, and eventually there will be a groundswell of political support to reform the program. - 2/4/2009   9:41:20 PM
  • 49
    I honestly don't remember much about school lunches...I usually took my lunch anyway. However, when I taught preschool, I was required to eat the school lunches. Corndogs, pizzas, etc. were the norm. But the worst day was when they served a bag of Fritos, a scoop of beans, a little dollop of cheese sauce, and some French fries for lunch. Ugh. Fritos AND French fries??? It was like some kind of sick joke. I think they're might have been half an apple on the tray as well, but all I really remember is the Fritos and French fries!!!!! :-p - 2/2/2009   1:49:08 PM
  • 48
    My son will only eat pizza at school he says the rest of it is just nasty..none of my kids will eat off the salad bar they have seen kids put there hands all over the food
    sneeze on the food and other things that are just nasty.. there is a sneeze guard but these are kid and do not care - 2/1/2009   11:43:43 AM
  • 47
    My mom never let us each school lunch at all, but we also have to realize the times were different; many of mom's lunches weren't that much better. I think parents who pack lunches today are more cautious about what kids are getting. - 1/19/2009   7:42:31 AM
  • 46
    My little brother is in high school and has eaten pizza almost everyday for lunch for 3 years now, that can't be very healthy.
    When I was younger and in elementary school we didn't exactly have a cafeteria, we had a place for eating, everyone had to bring their lunch. Then when I got to middle school it was weird to bring your lunch, but the school's food was terrible I didn't ever eat it.
    Why is it a good thing that there are more children on the free/reduced lunch program? At least they are getting a meal, ok but the choices are terribly unhealthy and we really aren't teaching children anything about making good food choices, mainly because the options are nachos, pizza or chips. - 12/17/2008   11:37:25 AM
    We were allowed 1-lunch per month to eat at the cafeteria and it was relatively healthy I suppose. In middle school we had to bring home the bag/ziplocs to prove we didnt trade away our lunches and we didnt get money to buy anything on the side. Once we got into high school we were to pack our own lunches or go hungry. We learned how to pack from the fridge of what was bought for us. If we wanted to eat at school, we had to pay for it ourselves.

    I guess its easier to let your kids eat at the school than try to pack out from home? What if ALL parents made their kids take lunches? No cafeteria required and no complaints about unhealthy foods. Oh wait- that might require making your kid do something and parents dont like to that anymore. I guess in the 70's it was ok to tell your kids 'no'. Just say no to unhealthy lunches and make your kids take them and if they dont want them- go hungry. - 12/3/2008   11:15:14 AM
  • 44
    As a teenager, I loved the school lunch choices...cheeseburgers, grilled cheese, pizza, a parent though,I can't stand it. - 11/25/2008   9:17:31 AM
  • 43
    I enjoyed eating school lunch when I was a, tacos, cheese sanwiches, etc. I know it doesn't sound healthy, but it's not as bad as now. Before, the lunch ladies would make the food from scratch (to some degree homemade). Now, to cut costs, the school district buys frozen foods and now the lunch ladies just heat it up. This is where all the sodium and trans fat comes in.
    I'm a teacher and when I go through the cafeteria to get to the teacher's lounge, I see the kids eating hot pockets, cinnamon rolls, sugary cereals, etc for breakfast. For lunch, the kids have a choice of a salad bar, but the meal will include frozen pizza, burgers, chicken nuggets, etc. If the food still has the wrapper, I check the nutrition info and I'm appalled at the fat, tras fat, high fructose corn syrup and sodium content these foods contain.
    Because I am a new teacher, I am not allowed to complain about this issue. But once I get tenure, I am going to be fighting the school district with this problem. - 11/8/2008   3:34:33 PM
  • GENTRY33
    It depends on where your school is. The more rural the area equals the worst lunches. I remember in school, we would end up buying ice cream because the food was so nasty. I would not have given the grease pizza to my dog, much less a child. I think it is wonderful that parents are getting involved. The best bet is to pack a healthy lunch. - 10/28/2008   10:27:23 AM
    Our school changed to healthier lunches last year. There were many things that were complained about but I was thrilled over most of them. It's all whole-grain now instead of the empty calories of white bread/regular crust/etc. Sides are healthier with fresh veggies...often offered with hummus dip (one of the things many complained about last year) and my child has finally learned to eat foods he had turned his nose up at home. This year he's excited because they can go back for fresh fruits if they eat most of what is served. My only "complaint" is they changed the milk to 1%. I know of many children in the school who need the lower fat milk but there are also many who are underweight or within normal ranges. - 10/20/2008   9:13:03 AM
  • 40
    It does concern me, however, I think that it has improved significantly (a few items I know for sure have changed, like whole wheat bread from white bread, etc.) But, the other kicker is that I feed them very healthfully at home, I have taught them to make the best available choices, and I try to supplement whatever they missed out on nutritionally at dinner. We can only do our best with what we are given, right? - 10/19/2008   10:54:21 AM
  • 39
    In my community there was a community action team put into place specifically for nutrition in the schools. They did a lot of good in getting unhealthy food like sodas and candy out of vending machines. They also got more fruit and veggies on the menu. Now kids have to bring their own sodas and candy, and sadly most of them do. My mom is a teacher at an elementary, and she says some parents even bring their children "fresh" fast food for lunch. She also says that kids mostly waste their veggies and fruit and anything that is healthy if it doesn't taste supper fantastic. That's just kids. You can say start from an early age, but the biggest factor is parents. The whole community has to be on board or it doesn't matter what you try to feed them at school. But I do think it's really important to get junk food out of the vending machines. Then at least parents have to make that choice to send it from home. - 10/16/2008   8:56:04 AM
  • 38
    our school system has generally healthier fare, though they also have not so healthy on their main menu. they also have yogurt (go-gurt), rice krispie treats, sodas, ice cream, etc. i am trying to get our pta to help change this menu. something needs to be done. - 10/15/2008   10:08:22 AM
  • 37
    the schools should all take and have a bar with all ot the health foods , like yougurt and fruits, from the k-12 program and then the children would learn from the start, i have a 2 year old grand child and she wants to eat yougurt all ot the time. - 9/14/2008   8:36:05 PM
  • GOAL142
    From what I know, School Superintendents have only so much money to spend per year. Bus routes are being shortened by having kids walk to a farther bus stop (sometimes in complete darkness on busy streets)to save gas, vending machines are selling already hyper and obese kids snacks and sodas to make a profit, and ALL lunch ladies are expected to clock in and be done in 3 hours or less, saving the school system wages and benefits. This is a common practice. I am developing a plan right now to combat this epidemic by having local farmers donate fresh fruits and veggies for snack times and rewards for the kids. My oldest daughter used to have seizures and was on meds for them. She was actually given a CODE RED MOUNTAIN DEW as a reward for helping the teacher. That was two years ago and the teacher STILL is allowed to do this, despite the outcry from parents. We have a long hard fight... - 9/12/2008   10:32:12 AM
  • DSD1872
    In my daughter's school, there is no cafeteria, they have different fast food venders for each day of the week...I hate that they are only offered this as a choice, and long for the days of old, when we ate a well balanced meal, where a roast was actually cooked by the precious lunchroom ladies, and they had home-made rolls, and actual apple pie and cheddar chesse wedges...the food was doesn't take that much time, effort and the do it the right way, and in the long run it is really cheaper...The staff is paid for their time and they are actually using their cooking skills. The staff is more proud of their work, and the children who don't have someone to cook at home may actually taste what food is supposed to taste like, not just something from a box or aluminum pan!!! - 9/11/2008   3:54:58 PM
    Our epidemic of childhood obesity is such a huge topic. We can't just blame one source. WE ARE ALL TO BE BLAMED for our children's eating habits. WE should all be involved in managing our kids eating and exercising habits. eating poorly is a learned behavior so eating healthy will be just as easy to learn!
    - 9/11/2008   10:42:40 AM
  • 33
    School lunches was always an issue in our home- neither children wanted to bring their lunch - many times I made them, but they would trade for others unhealthy lunches or even a school bought lunch. I gave up in junior high and high school where they insisted on buying their lunches. My son was a hamburger and fries every day and my daughter wanted much healtier, but many times she would have last lunch where they would run out of the healthier choices. She solved that by going off campus her senior year. - 9/7/2008   11:48:31 AM
  • 32
    my son packs his own lunch - usually string cheese, some fresh fruit, a 100% juice box, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (made with whole grain bread and natural peanut butter, and preserves instead of jelly).

    only rarely does he get hot lunch. a couple years ago, he had hot lunch every day because we received free lunches. i think he had more behavioral problems then. - 9/1/2008   9:54:57 PM
    I let my daughter eat a school lunch once a week - she generally gravitates towards "pizza day", but thankfully the slice of pizza is accompanied by fresh fruit and milk.

    I think the problems arise in middle and high school, where students have access to more vending machines and opportunities to purchase nachos, french fries, and other less healthy alternatives to the official school lunch. - 8/31/2008   7:32:00 PM
  • 30
    I teach elementary school in a state that has one of the worst obesity rates in the nation. The nutritional content of the school lunches are terrible! Breaded nuggets (chicken, steak, fish, and some other sort that they call pork), pizza, corn dogs, pepperoni rolls, potatoes of every kind known, etc. Very little vegetables are served (unless it's a potato). Fruits are nearly non-existent. When fruits are served, they are in heavy syrup or the icky gel.

    School Breakfast is as bad as the lunch. Usually it's a Toaster Pastry (that hasn't been toasted), a Super Donut ("but it's loaded with vitamins!" I'm told---but I've read the nutritional label), bacon or sausage, toast with butter dripping from it, or Pancake on a Stick (a mini sausage with a pancake batter---corndog style---that's been deep fried). Cereal offerings are the sugary, flavored junk.

    At least 1% and Skim Milk has been offered. When the cooks make rolls, they do make wheat rolls.

    BUT...the cooks in nearly all of our districts' schools must follow the menu sent to them by the district's Child Nutrition Office. Either the district or the state must become responsible and require healthier meals for our students and then make sure the schools have the food they need for preparing them.

    ALSO, too many children come to school without any breakfast, and too many do not have another meal after they leave. (Our NATION has a high level of children who live in poverty.) The school provides them the only meals they have on any given day. I want them to leave school with a meal that has the good nutritional content they need.
    - 8/31/2008   3:30:28 PM
    I can't complain. The school I work at has some really good lunches. I've even eaten them a time or two. - 8/31/2008   2:53:11 PM
    "I also remember that catsup was treated as...A VEGETABLE!"

    You can thank Ronald Reagan for that. - 8/31/2008   2:17:29 PM
    I remember being completely disgusted by most of the things that school lunches had to offer. I also remember that catsup was treated as...A VEGETABLE! How appalling. Fortunately, I hate catsup.

    Even the milk was warm! - 8/31/2008   12:47:15 PM
  • 26
    Just this month it was reported a large number of Alberta school cafeteria didn't pass their annual inspection. My son's school doesn' t have a lunch program so we have been packing his lunch. I will try to do this as long as possible. Healthy food choice is one thing. The possibility of food posioning can be a nightmare. - 8/31/2008   10:48:09 AM
    I pack bentos, so this isn't an issue for me personally.
    School lunches have gotten better in my district, but not by much. There are fruits and veggies available and they aren't as gross as the ones mentioned in the article. They aren't as good as the ones sold in local grocery stores though. - 8/31/2008   10:10:07 AM
  • 24
    As school starts this Tuesday in my area of British Columbia, the schools are no longer allowed to sell junk food in the vending machines. I think it's a great start. Still this is nothing stopping the kids from bringing it in, but at least they can have some healthier options available to them now. - 8/31/2008   9:33:24 AM
    i graduated just 3 yrs ago and i can still smell the stench of school lunches. yes, there was a healthy option such as a salad, but here's the kicker. they only prepare 5, plus some for the students who ordered it. most days i was late to school so i didnt get to order a salad. every day students could get the same thing: chicken nuggets, cheese burger, french fries, or the hot lunch. i understand the money issues, but i believe this is where the highschool students start gaining weight and learning unhealthy eating habits. - 8/30/2008   5:22:56 PM
  • 22
    I run a health school kitcher lots of fresh fruits and veggies ,100% fruits juices ,beef ,skinless boneless chicken and fish ,very little to no pork plus choc milk,2% milk and yogurt plus all sevreing size are set by the Fed and State laws - 8/30/2008   4:53:00 PM
  • 21
    The school where I work now has changed it's menu over the past two years. This year they have switched to whole wheat bread/buns only, fries only two days a week. We always have salads, fresh fruit and yogurt available. Can't comment on the meat; mostly it is still a mystery. The girls make a variety of homemade desserts which I try to avoid, but many of them at least have fruit or oatmeal in them. There is still room for improvement, but I think it has gotten better. You can only do so much with what the government will provide for the schools to use. - 8/30/2008   2:30:21 PM
  • 20
    When I was in school, I ALWAYS brought my lunch.

    The existence of vending machines in schools blows my mind. I think that they should only have healthy vending machines: water, fruit juice, reduced fat- and -calorie snacks, etc. I wish they would peddle more whole fruits in the lunch line, as well. - 8/30/2008   11:06:42 AM
  • 19
    It very sad that more children NEED to be enrolled in the lunch program, as this may be the only good food they get for the day.

    Most of the time my children had a bag lunch, buying was a rare treat. It is wonderful that the food is improving. - 8/30/2008   9:37:12 AM

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