School lunch reform necessary for student success

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School lunch reform necessary for student success

Ortavia Easly, Staff Writer

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School lunches in America have always had a horrible reputation. Though the lunch program improved when Congress set new standards in 2010, many students, including those at Kingsbury, believe there’s still a long way to go in improving meal options.

Imelda Oungouramang, a senior at KHS, expressed disappointment with the options served in the cafeteria.

“Lunch is inedible, and it would be better if the lunch ladies attempted to cook the food,” Oungouramang said.

She’s not alone in her disappointment. Other students also believe the district-mandated lunches could be improved.

Walter Hudson, a senior, said he often skips eating the school-provided lunch.

“My mom always wants to know why I’m so hungry when I get home, but I tell her it’s because the school lunch isn’t good,” Hudson said. “Some kids really don’t eat all day.”

Kingsbury participates in the federally-funded National School Lunch Program, which was signed into law in 1947 under President Truman providing free or low cost meals to approximately 31 million students in 100,000 public and nonprofit private schools in the United States, according to the USDA website.

A number of factors contribute to school lunches in America; funding is a big part of this. According to the National School Lunch Program website, participating schools receive about $1.30 per student. This covers food, labor, equipment and any other associated costs. Some schools receive contracts from vendors who have the power to purchase. Almost every school lunch includes milk because it has been federally subsidized for schools since 1940. However, a single serving of chocolate milk contains between four and six teaspoons of sugar. Therefore, it’s potentially not the most healthy drink option for students.

Students consume half of their daily caloric intake at school. For low income and homeless students, this may be their only meal. A 2009 School Nutrition Dietary Assessment Study, found out that only 39% of schools offered green salad, only 29% offered orange or dark green vegetables, only 10% offered legumes and more than 95% of grain products were made from refined white flour.

Issues with malnourishment

Studies have shown students who are hungry or undernourished have trouble focusing and learning. Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins and minerals that improve concentration and cognitive abilities. In a 2008 Journal of School Health published study that found that effective school nutrition programs “have the potential to improve student’s diet quality, academic performance, and over the long term, their health.”

How to improve lunches

Alice Waters, creator of  the Edible Schoolyard Project, says the school lunch problem will never be solved until it’s not longer just talked about.

“We’ll never solve the problems of health as long as we talk about it over there, outside of our lives as fueling up,” she said according to the Edible Schoolyard Project website.

Applying food to education gets students more involved and concerned about what they eat.

Kingsbury has a garden program that has helped students in making healthier choices. Mr. James Ritter, the lead teacher over Kingsbury’s garden, says he has seen students making changes after being involved in the program.

“Students are more likely to try a new vegetable that they have grown,” Ritter said. “They may or may not enjoy the vegetable, but they are now more apt to try new things.”

Ritter says Farm to School programs are helpful because the programs provide knowledge about and access to fresh produce.

Another options schools and districts could do might be offering salad bars, eliminating processed foods, and opting for meatless Mondays. School lunches can improve through work.

Like Ocean Robbins says in his recently published book 31-Day Food Revolution, “as long as tens of millions of families depend on school meals for a fundamental part of daily nutrition, we all have a stake in making them healthier.”