School Food and Cafeteria Nutrition

One of America's Many Problems

Here's the good news.

After a plethora of pleading from schools and districts across the states, the government and the First Lady herself have made efforts to raise quality assurance and access to food in every lunch-serving school, private and public. Not only are kids of all ages enjoying the wider and healthier selection of food items available, the fight against childhood obesity is becoming an easier one. In 2013, each of the New York City's 1,300 public elementary schools are equipped with a fresh salad bar in their cafeterias (Bratskeir).

But here's what's wrong.

Even with Michelle Obama's campaign for better school nutrition, there are still more than one-third of kids in America that are obese or overweight (Bratskeir). Kids are disgusted with the things served in their lunch lines. Some schools have the good life, a paradise. The options they have are phenomenally different from the options presented to some of the more unfortunate schools across the country. With 5.1 billion lunches served by the National School Lunch Program in 2013, there has to be some sort of correlation between the health of the 32 million children and the quality of the food they're served (Bratskeir).

But that's not all.

Take France's obesity rates into consideration: nearly non-existent, for they have the lowest in the in Western world (Murphy). Things such as "cucumber salad with vinaigrette, salmon lasagna with spinach, fondue with baguette for dipping, and fruit compote for desert" would most definitely not pass under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act currently in place (Murphy). However, these are just some of the items served in your typical four-course school lunch overseas. Let me say that again: four-course. Sure, the government is taking action to lower the amount of refined grains, fat, salt, and calories in school food, but what they don't know is how the food looks and tastes (Murphy):

The food is disgusting

Guess what?

There are schools that have banned homemade lunches. The only option is to get food from the cafeteria. In turn, teenagers are choosing hunger over disgrace, tossing their lunches into the bin. Even with the standards limiting sodium, sugar, and fat, the food isn't getting any more appetizing ("'Prisoners'").

There are people helping.

There are organizations and groups out there with a focus on improving cafeteria food from different approaches.

  • The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine recently launched the Healthy School Lunch Campaign that helps students and staff confront the problem and improve both quality and nutrition.
  • There are also many Farm to School programs that promote partnership between local farmers and schools for a deal that's better for the kids and better on the schools' wallets. You can go to for more information on that.
  • And finally, there's The Lunch Box - a site founded by Ann Cooper. The Lunch Box provides a lot of resources for recipes, videos, studies, and tools to help districts change their circumstance with lunch food.

But you can to.

You may think that there isn't much you can do, but I beg to differ.

  • Talk to your counselor. Mention you're interested in this and see if you can get a message to the other staff through a petition!
  • Ask your peers. What changes would they make? Get a focus group going and make a plan.
  • TALK to your cafeteria staff! They're the ones making the food, they most likely have their own opinion of the scene both in front of and behind the kitchen.
  • Do your own research about your school's conditions versus others'.
  • What are some recipes and dishes you would love to have if they were served during breakfast or lunch at your school? Share those.

These are just some ideas, but get talking. People can get creative. High school kids are the ones eating the food in the cafeteria everyday, so they should at least have some say in the matter. I hope this inspires you to make change or support it.