Hannah Holycross ‘22, Opinion Editor
Shiny Bosco sticks with a smooth cheese filling, golden brown chicken tenders that make your mouth water, deep dish pizza you can sink your teeth into, and mini corn dogs you can consume in one bite. Our school lunches hold many fan favorites, classics we have been consuming since our pre-k days, but are these meals actually quality in taste? Or are they simply the best of the worst?
With small portion sizes and a lack of options, you cannot blame those who sneak back for seconds, only to be turned away by cafeteria staff policing the lines. Those who just want chocolate milk are forced to take meals that they end up tossing in the trash. Students who rely on these lunches as their primary source of lunch time nutrition, come up short when it comes to food that would actually benefit their health.
Although our cafeteria holds nutritious alternatives and sides to some of the provided meals, students are not required to grab these healthy options and are free to indulge in the oh-so-nutritious Bosco sticks and tater tots without any kind of natural nutrients teens need to grow and develop. The CDC says themselves that a healthy diet supports brain development, growth, immunity, muscles, and digestive system function. Without access to foods that provide these benefits, students are at a disadvantage when it comes to their future.
Three chicken tenders and a juice box is not a reasonable meal for a person to consume on the daily. Not only do the unhealthy options promote bad eating habits, but the small portions do as well. Handing students small amounts of food on a regular basis conditions them to believe that smaller meal portions are normal and not something that cheats you out of much needed energy throughout the school day. Adolescence is a time of insecurity, and therefore, a time where promoting healthy eating habits is critical. With social media filled with advice on calorie counting and promotion of unrealistic body standards, it is more important than ever that schools promote teens to eat normal amounts of food and not cut down.
When interviewed about the meals provided by the school, an SLHS lunch lady said: “[The meals are] designed for us by our food director…we have to be compliant with the state of Michigan serving proper portions and the proper grains and food groups.” She also claimed portion sizes are decided by the state and that the healthy side options offered in the cafeteria help the meals to fulfill the proper health requirements. When asked if students are required to take these healthy side options, she said: “yes, they are required to take at least half a cup of fruit and/or vegetables.” Students have the option to replace their side of fruit with a juice box or a sidekick, a sugary sorbet that holds no nutritional value. I put these requirements to the test the other day by leaving the kitchen holding the pinnacle of health, corn dogs, with no kind of “nutritious” side in my hand. I came out unscathed, able to indulge in my meal of processed hot dog meat and fried bread with no fruits or veggies to compensate for the lack of nutrition held in my meal. If the school is required to cover all food groups in our meals, then we must force students to take part in these requirements by actively encouraging them to place these healthy options on their plates.
I understand that our school does not hold much control over the funding we receive for these lunches, but we must not stand by and continue to serve our student body these poor excuses of meals. It is ridiculous to say that one cheeseburger and a juice box covers all the recommended food groups and that a side salad with low quality lettuce and inedible chickpeas is a good alternative for those looking for a more beneficial lunch. Many SLHS students rely on these free lunches making them just as critical as the chromebooks, sports equipment, and furnishings on which we spend our funding. It is time we take into account the importance of a nutritious diet and create change by redesigning what we serve to our beloved students.