*** Please welcome our next guest bloggers***
We are a pair of new mothers who teach in an urban district near
fall, when one of us was handed the menu for our babies’ daycare. Our
crusade for better food for our toddlers has now grown to include the
high school students where we work.
Think back to your high school years. Do you remember eating lunch in the cafeteria? The way it smelled…. The way the food tasted…. And how pleasant it looked there on your tray, all ice-cream-scoop-shaped and congealed…. Mmm. Dee-lish.
Then there was the alternative “snack line,” with its ubiquitous offerings of French fries (with or without the chili cheese) and gallons of Ranch dressing. (I’m not going to lie; I scrounged through the seats of my car for enough change to purchase the aforementioned items. Even now, my mouth waters a little when I think about it.)
Fast-forward 15 years, and you’ll find 30-year-old me at an urban public high school where I teach Social Studies and work with technology integration. Of our approximately 1,700 students, 72% qualify for free/reduced lunch (this statistic increases to 74% district-wide). For many of my students, this is the only meal they get each day.
So, what are they eating?
Today’s menu includes two choices: chicken alfredo with a breadstick, or a pizza cheese stick (what?) with spaghetti sauce. As I walked through the cafeteria a few minutes ago, I didn’t see a single student eating either of these options. I remarked to a young man that the chicken alfredo sounded good, and he said, “Yeah, until you see it.”
Most students were eating nachos; a couple had some sort of submarine sandwich. I saw one student with chicken nuggets. All of them had French fries with large plastic containers of ketchup (someone should really fill them in on the Ranch dressing thing).
When I asked the students for their thoughts regarding school lunches, they said things like:
It’s not good, but I eat it.
It is not very nutritious.
It sucks [expletive]. You cannot hide the truth!
It needs real improvement.
I encouraged them to elaborate:
I pay $1.85, and it’s not worth it. [Note: this is the full price, not the reduced price.]
The food tastes old.
We have no willpower. If they put cookies out, we’re going to eat them.
They serve the same thing all the time. [This is true. There are four school weeks in the month of March. The menu for the third and fourth weeks is just a rehash of the first and second weeks.]
We would love to have healthier options. If they gave us healthier options, we’d eat them.
It’s hard when you’re trying to lose weight. I wish there was something healthy.
It bothers me to see that nothing has changed in the 15 years since I was eating in the cafeteria. It kills me to know that this is the only food some of my students will eat today. It ANGERS me to realize that they’ve reached an age where they KNOW they should be eating better, but their family’s financial situation is such that they’re powerless to change it.
These students, the 74% of children in this city whose families cannot afford to feed them lunch, if anything at all – these students KNOW that they’re getting shafted. It’s time we speak up. It’s time we demand change. It’s time we help those who can’t help themselves.
The ironic twist to this story came in the form of an email that went out to the staff this week about how the food “auditor” is going to be here in the next couple of days and we need to make sure we are adhering to the State guidelines.
Thanks for your post. Readers, stay tuned next week for more from these particular guest bloggers: Part 2: Daycare food
NOTE: I set up guest blog posts to auto-post during the day the night before