People just can’t stop criticizing school lunches. Marlee Gelfand, an 8th grader at Burleigh Manor Middle School (BMMS) says, “I never buy lunch…. The school lunches are really bad.” But, the truth is, school lunches are as good as they are ever going to get, and what they are now is the maximum we can expect.
Due to concern about child obesity, the U.S. Department of Agriculture instituted higher standards for public school health and nutrition, requiring public school s to serve more fruits, vegetables and whole grains while lowering sodium and removing trans fat content. For example, BMMS has rid its condiment table of salt and Old Bay® seasoning.
Although nutritional values have improved, many students think school lunches still need to taste better. On the other hand, when a student states, “everything is disgusting but the burgers,” one can only reflect that we are talking about a school cafeteria, not a five-star restaurant. The cafeteria isn’t supposed to serve food that dances to your taste buds.
Money also plays a big factor in school lunches. According to Mary Klatko, Director of Food and Nutrition Services in Howard County, the school system pays $4 for our lunches, and we only pay $3! Klatko agrees that there is not enough money to make lunches any better. She says that the county is attempting to appeal to our desires, such as making Thanksgiving lunches, but the limited budget places restraints on improving lunches.
What the cafeteria does need to improve on is the promotion of healthy lunch choices. How? The school has to make sure that students choose healthy options, not junk. According to a one-day survey of 173 students taken by BMMS French teacher Anne-Marie Lanz, only 12% of students who bought lunch had two or more servings of vegetables or fruit on their lunch plates. More than 42% did not have any vegetables or fruit. Additionally, 38% bought relatively unhealthy snacks. Why? Students say tasty 50-cent snacks like cookies and churros are more appealing than expensive and unappetizing fruits and vegetables.
Judith Shure, the BMMS cafeteria manager, says that there have been many healthy changes to lunch options. A salad and fruit bar has been installed and flavored milk is now fat free. Even though these healthy choices are being offered, not many people are taking them! Shure agrees that peers have to share the positives of healthy and delicious foods with others in order for healthy school lunches to be accepted in middle schools.
8th grader Pranav Ganapathy, Burleigh Manor Middle School, Baltimore County, would like to live in Paris.