All School Lunches Are Not Created Equal

by Taylor Sanders-Palmer

It’s that time of year again! The store shelves are stocked with notebooks, binders and Post-Its while colorful and eye-catching banners promote ‘Back to School Deals!’. Parents are certainly aware of the supplies that their children should be taking to school but do they also know what kind of food is being served at lunch time.

Of course its no question that the students in Philadelphia are extremely lucky to receive free breakfast and lunch. Since 2014 the School District has been providing free lunches and breakfast. The free meals programs are covered by the Federal Government and the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

DoSomething.org conducted a campaign called ‘Fed Up’ that focused on the quality of food being served to students under the Free and Reduced Lunch Programs. The campaign’s goal is to ensure that these children are receiving food with the correct amount of nutrients so they can function better and be more productive in the classroom. (Various studies have shown there is a strong relationship between healthy nutritious meals and student achievement).

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Members of DoSomething.org, a nationwide youth group, were asked to post pictures of their lunches and vote “would you eat it or toss it?”. The results of this inquiry showed that 70% of school meals were deemed unsatisfactory. Extensive conversations with a few Philadelphia students from various elementary and secondary schools resulted in frank and illuminating comments regarding their cafeteria experiences. The results we received were mixed. Most students complained about taste, but how do you balance good taste with good nutrition.

We are facing ever-increasing rates of childhood obesity as we usher in the start of a new school year. What should (or can) our schools and parents be doing to improve lunch programs in order to help combat the rising numbers of unhealthy students in our classrooms? In 2012, Michelle Obama challenged and encouraged parents and schools to feed children more fruit and vegetables and less processed foods, and to increase their whole grain intake. Many schools in Philadelphia have stepped up to this challenge by partnering with Vetri Community Partnerships whose vision or slogan is HEALTHY BODY + HEALTHY MIND = HEALTHY LIVING. Their mission is to help children and their families live healthier life styles through the use of “fresh food, hands on experience, and education”. More information about this organization’s initiative or about partnering with YOUR child’s school can be found at http://www.vetricommunity.org/. You may also call (215) 600-2630 for additional information.

The Journal is interested in learning what its readers have to say regarding this important issue. What changes (if any) would you like to see implemented regarding the meals and nutritional programs in our schools?

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3 thoughts on “All School Lunches Are Not Created Equal”

  1. Although nutrition is of the utmost importance, children will not eat food that doesn’t look good. Would you or I? We can also equip the schools with “only” milk, water and a small amount of juices.
    Yes, we are grateful for the free lunch programs, the food can be and look better.
    I know this for a fact, I am retired from the Philadelphia School District.
    I have seen better school lunches in schools that are not in poor neighborhoods. This is a Fact. If it is All Free, why is a difference being made. What is good for one public school is good for all!

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