In defense of school lunches

school lunchesBy JULIAN YERGER – For struggling families, the school district supplies a very important service. By providing free or reduced lunches in its cafeterias, the school district does its part to fight child hunger.|

Although many complain about the quality of food, the high school cafeteria doesn’t deserve most of the criticism it receives. Despite having to provide large quantities of food to students with strong preferences, the meals are still nutritious and within federal requirements.

Just under half of IHS students buy lunch, with 325 purchasing meals and another 150 that buy la carte items that don’t qualify for meal pricing. By most standards, these meals are very inexpensive. For students at the high school, a full lunch costs $2.75 and provides 750-850 calories.

Even so, they are not affordable for some, and free or reduced lunches are provided. 30% of the students at the Junior High School qualify for this program, and most of these students continue on to the high school.

Recently, the school board’s push to build a new superschool has been squeezing budgets, and that makes a food service budget increase unlikely. With prices set and the budget constrained, it seems churlish to complain about quality.

The school offers many options on a given day, under the sections of American Classics, 2Mato, Grill, On the Go, and the Fruit and Vegetable Bar. Although there are many choices, all these options are still constrained by recent federal regulations on school lunch quality. The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) set restrictions on minimum and maximum amount of calories as well as limiting the amount of total fat calories, saturated fat calories, trans fat, sugar by weight, and sodium.

IHS freshman Kevin Tomko wasn’t happy with the sodium restrictions. “The school lunches are pretty bad, they don’t add any salt. Having a cube of salt would be better.”
The HHFKA also defined five categories of nutrition: meat/meat alternative, grain, vegetable, fruit, and milk. For a combination of these to qualify as a meal, one category must be either one serving of fruit or serving of vegetables.

This demand is perfectly reasonable since according to health.gov, teens should consume approximately four servings daily of both fruits and vegetables.

There is still progress to be made; IHS freshman Jacob Fulmer thinks that “The school lunches could be better sometimes, they’re very greasy.”

[Photo by Julian Yerger]

Photo caption: Freshmen Connor McQuaide and Zach Palko are big fans of the cafeteria cheeseburgers.

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