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School Lunches: Health over Taste

Katie thor Straten, Staff

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For the longest time, the running joke among school classmates is the cafeteria food. The quality is poor, the meats are questionable, and the portions are too small. While there have been programs to increase the nutritional value of lunches, such as the National School Lunch Program, to students there have been no obvious changes in taste and appeal.

On the other hand, the outward appearance may not always be a true representation of the quality.

“Food comes from a variety of vendors that have gone through the purchasing process to become a vendor for BCPS, some products like: bread, milk, vegetables, and fruits. Other items are frozen or shelf stable at room temperature such as canned applesauce,” said director of the office of Food and Nutrition Karen Levenstein.

Also behind the scenes, directors and other employees have procedures to keep the meal plan balanced. The United States Department of Agricultures has a whole document on the new regulations made in 2012. It has turned mathematical. For each age range there is a different organization of vegetables, fruit, grain, meat/meat substitutes, and fluid milk. This is to make sure kids, with parents with not much money, will be able to have an organized and healthy meal at least once a day.

Even with many attempts to increase the quality of meals, it’s clear there is a long way to go.

“We strive to work with staff on site and off site with professional development training. We are always looking for new food items that are available in the marketplace for school meals,” Levenstein said.

The students have an opposing opinion to these meals.

“When I bite into it [chicken patty sandwich], it is those little hard parts that make it feel like it’s not cooked,” junior, Jonah Nicholson said.

Even teachers who have been on lunch duty agree that the lunches are subpar.

“I don’t think that they are nutritious enough and they rely far too much on meat,” English Rachel Wilkinson said. Students who, for dietary reasons, can’t eat meat, the lack of options could cause them to go hungry. Families may not be able to pay for packed lunches and rely on school food for a meal.

“Get student input…if they gave us a bunch of choices that were school healthy and the students go to vote on that…it would be better,” Nicholson expressed.

New programs have started in order to create these new ideas. The “Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Program” is trying to increase the quantity of fruit and vegetables to be from a farm and less from the can when possible. The idea of having more choices with vegetables and healthy options could bring in more students buying.

There is hope for school lunches in the future but it is clear that, as of right now, there are many changes that should be made for student’s health and pleasure. Kids won’t eat something that tastes gross, would they?

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School Lunches: Health over Taste