Back in December, the Los Angeles Times reported that kids in Los Angeles USD were spurning that district’s new, healthier school food menus — even to the point that some students were reportedly suffering from
headaches, stomach pains and even anemia. At many campuses, an underground market for chips, candy, fast-food burgers and other taboo fare is thriving.
Conservative commentators in particular, seeing the improved menu as a Nanny state intervention, seized on this news with glee. (Though given that a federally subsidized school meal is already the ultimate in government nanny-ing, I’ve never quite understood why the actual menu matters at all to those folks.)
At any rate, as I pointed out in my post at that time, if you dug into the media reports the news wasn’t all bad. It was clear that Los Angeles had some serious quality control problems, with the healthier food showing up in schools undercooked, overcooked and, according to one student, “moldy.” So, arguably, student rejection of the food wasn’t an indictment of healthier fare but of poorly prepared food. Second, the LA Times reported that at least half of the new entrees, including salads and vegetarian tamales, were popular with students — not a bad result given that the entire menu had been overhauled.
I hadn’t heard anything new from LAUSD since then, but last night I received a comment from a high school student in that district, who had this to say. (I haven’t changed the wording of the comment but I did break it into paragraphs for easier reading):
I have read all the comments below me and well I dont know if anybody here has any type of power to do this. But if someone who does and reads this im a student attending Esteban E. Torres highschool and well if their were to be a survey here if we eat the lunch im sure you would all be dissapointed on the results.
I blame the decisions parents have made for the lunches. I’m gonna give my point of view on how I see this situation.
Okay look i have tried some of the “healthy” lunches they provide and well I do enjoy the tamale with meat im guessing? But other than that the rest is disgusting. Its not heated right or its just poorly served. I have noticed this during lunch, whenever they serve “healthy” salads the line for lunch is very small but when they have spicy chicken wings the line is huge .
Now as parents answer me this. why change the whole menu for all students? Why not make a section with healthy food and the other section with normal food they use to offer. Because if I were a parent and some other parent was making decisions on what my child gets served at school for lunch and I learned my child wasnt eating because of these poorly bad tasting lunches I would be upset. Because tell me this. Would you rather have kids being served healthy food but the kids just throwing them away? Because they do not enjoy being served this food. I rather have kids eating any kind of food instead of eating nothing at all am I right? But most of the parents care about just their kid. Not the rest of the kids .
So thats why I think its best they make two lines one with the healthy food and the other with the old food . Tell your kid to choose the healthy line instead of the other since the other kids dont really matter (just like the article mentions up their) Like That All Kids Eat Instead Of Skipping Lunch.
I do have some questions for this reader, if he/she is willing to answer them:
1. When you talk about a line with “healthy food” and a line with “normal food,” what would be on that second line? In other words, what’s been taken away that you want to see brought back?
2. Do you think the issue with the healthier school food is that it’s healthier or that it’s, as you say above, “not heated right or it’s just poorly served?” If the school did a better job preparing the food, would you be willing to give it another try?
3. Do you think you and other students might have been more accepting of the new foods if they’d been introduced gradually, instead of all at once? Would it have helped if they gave out samples first, or talked to you about the new foods before serving them this year?
4. Is there anything else that the school could do to make the healthier stuff more appealing to you?
And to Lunch Tray readers, what do you think about all this? Are today’s kids, particularly those in high school, just too used to burgers and fries to ever be motivated to try better school food? Should we not even waste our time on high schools and instead focus school food reform efforts on elementary schools?
I’d love to hear what everyone has to say.
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