Can you imagine going through the entire school day without eating? While Nutrition serves as an opportunity give our brains their morning boosts and Lunch is supposed to give us our energy to finish the school day, we can’t always take advantage of these “refueling periods” in a healthy manner with the food choices that are provided at our school.
Schools claim that they focus all their efforts on providing students healthy dining options. Though that may be true, the fact of the matter remains that: if it doesn’t taste good, students won’t take advantage of the nutritional value, and will ultimately just waste the food. Believe it or not, students overwhelmingly understand the value of eating healthy, but will side with what tastes good over what might be good for them the vast majority of the time. I, myself, notice the likelihood that I will eat the coffee cakes, salad and fruit portions of the school-provided lunches… while everything else ends up in the trash.
Nationally, the annual cost of food served in school lunches overall — including milk and grains — is estimated at more than $18 million with a conservative estimate of 10% of that food being wasted. The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has tried to make changes by instituting the Breakfast In-Class (BIC) program, which has proved to present a number of issues of its own. I think BIC was initially a great idea, but it absorbs almost the first full 30 minutes of class time which contributes to most of the food ultimately being wasted. Unfortunately, many students arrive late to eat when the food is served and a majority of the food has to be dumped because students miss it or choose not to eat it cold.
Let’s face it, because of the disconnect between what’s provided and the types of things students like, our school food options have become a growing problem. I know many students choose not to eat because of the quality of food they are served, a decision I have made for myself multiple times this semester alone. When deciding between starving or eat something completely gross, many students just don’t eat which is completely unhealthy and reflects in their behavior and academic performance.
The remedy for some is to exclusively eat out of the vending machines. “If they started serving better food, I wouldn’t have to buy something every day,” my friend Elisha said as she dumped her food and headed off to the student store to buy a cinnamon bun. However, and despite the fact that eating out of the vending machines all but eliminates all nutritional value, consider the students that don’t have money to buy food out the vending machine everyday… and are relatively forced to just starve. Other students don’t actually have food at home on a regular basis, and find themselves dependent on school food. The only resolution is to collaborate with students regarding their likes and dislikes, and to find a middle ground on what can be offered.
Change our food, so our brains can function and students will be more focused on education instead of being hungry. More options so students would have choices.
This story is among the winners of the High School Insider Speak Out Challenge. We asked students to share what they thought the new Los Angeles Unified Superintendent, Michelle King, should know about their schools. From dozens of winners we selected 10 entries. Read the whole collection at Dear LAUSD, and stay tuned for an event later this spring.