The Misconception of the School Lunch at JFK
By Saeri Plagmann and Jazmin Flemmer, Clarion Staff
Why is it that a majority of students, teachers, and even parents have the mindset that school lunches are unappealing? Many suspect the food is defrosted from packages, lacks nutrition as well as flavor, and is never served fresh.
This misconception is common in schools, and students who do not eat school lunches are contributing to this misunderstanding by saying they simply do not like the lunchtime meal. This changes the perspective for many students who have never tried a school lunch. In a recent student body survey, this theory was confirmed in some of the responses from students who did not eat school lunches. These students assumed they would not like the offerings based on previous perceptions about the food served at Kennedy. For the most part, students who indicated they eat the school lunch at Kennedy were nearly split as to whether they liked the meal or not.
Despite students’ negative view about the quality of the offerings, school lunches are constantly being improved upon to make meals served on campus healthier. At Kennedy the cafeteria team (aka ‘lunch ladies’) want students to know about the high quality of food being served, and the amount of time and effort they are putting into their meals that are all made from scratch. The school cafeteria manager, Francis Avila, explains that everything they serve is completely healthy: whole wheat, low sodium, and 100% beef. Additionally, 8% of students in the aforementioned survey were either vegetarian or vegan. Because the cafeteria’s fruits and vegetables arrive fresh every day, any leftovers are thrown out each day so that students are only served fresh food. Vegetarians and vegans are also able to choose from a great selection of meat-free lunch. It is well known that Michelle Obama has had a major impact on quality of school lunches nationwide. Avila says that Obama is the reason their process for serving food has changed so dramatically, and why the food they serve at the cafeteria has to pass State approval prior to arriving at Kennedy. Avila concluded, “So, whatever is served here is because it went through them already.”
One of the questions students have voiced is the difference between the outside and inside school lunch lines. The difference is the outside line serves tacos and burritos (which students indicated were their favorite items) on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Barbecue is served on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Avila replied that they established different lines so that everyone has access to a fresh lunch and will not have to remain in one long line for all menu items. Of course, in keeping with the healthy menu theme, the barbecue serves chicken thighs without skin, so as to reduce fat and grease.
With everything served fresh and healthy, it is hard to understand why students think the way they do about school lunches. John Magby, junior at JFK, speaks positively about the lunch, “There is a lot of food to choose from in the cafeteria, and nothing is ever unhealthy”. However, in contrast to this opinion Mao Houa Thao, a senior, says “I used to have lunch throughout the first two years but during junior year I stopped having lunch because people keep cutting me [in line]. I can’t stand it. I have nothing against the food, the food is okay, but the line is too long and unorganized.” Perhaps the issue with some students lies with the process, and not with the food itself. But with over 2,000 students at JFK, making sure everyone gets their food hot, fresh, and as quick as possible can be a difficult task to fulfill.
The school cafeteria team puts a lot of effort into making the daily lunches for students here at Kennedy. Avila elaborated, “Some of these students don’t know how much work we actually put in for these fresh lunches everyday.” To encourage more students to eat healthy at the cafeteria, Avila also says that they are open to any suggestions students have, whether it is to improve a meal or to add an item to the menu. “You can’t base every school the same, and you can’t say all the districts are the same. We’re not. In Sac City we work very hard, and we want to put out what the kids like to bring them in. We don’t want them to go to Taco Bell or McDonalds. We don’t want them to go hamburger places. We want them to come here. Our barbecues are done, we do fresh chicken and marinate it.” Avila added, “It’s all fresh.”
Students will always have their opinions on school lunches, but the main point is that people should not assume something is not good because of what they hear or from previous experience. Remember, don’t believe everything you hear and nothing remains the same forever.