Please, lunch lady, I want some more

Many Indiana schools are struggling to meet federal guidelines for school lunches, reports the Journal and Courier. Schools must serve less meat and grains and more fruit and vegetables. Students complain the portions are too small, but they’re not hungry enough to eat the vegetables.

School districts are losing money because more students are passing up the school lunch and brown bagging.

“Kids eat with their eyes. When they saw that smaller portion, that freaked them out,” said Jennifer Rice, food service director of Lebanon Community School Corp., where the popular Salisbury steak shrunk. “I’ve been in the school district forever, and they all know me and they’ll go, ‘Mrs. Rice, we are hungry.’”

“They’re teaching our kids with this meal pattern that it’s OK to throw away,” said Lori Shofroth, Tippecanoe School Corp.’s food service director. “We did a waste study on three different schools, and there was a huge amount of waste.”

Amy Anderson, food service director for Carmel Clay Schools, said the rules have turned her into “a food cop.” Her district lost $300,000 on school lunches last year because of a drop in full-price students buying lunch. “Our kids can just wait and just hop in their BMWs and go to McDonald’s, which they’re rebuilding, making it bigger,” said Anderson.

In rural Elmwood, farm kids rejected the black bean salsa, says food service director Jay Turner. He offered to serve garbanzo beans instead. “And they gave me this look like, ‘No,’” Turner said.

Some districts are dropping out of the school lunch program or looking for ways to recoup losses as a result of the new regulations, reports the Washington Times.

My stepdaughter, who’s a nutritionist for a Boston nonprofit, has been designing school lunches. Meeting the guidelines is difficult, time-consuming and so costly her boss will not to renew the contract.

Update: Some British schools may require students to eat school meals instead of brown bagging or going out for lunch. Currently 57 percent bring their own lunch or buy something outside school. “The Government said these meals often contain too many sweets, fizzy drinks and fatty foods and the money would be better spent on healthy school lunches,” reports Sky News.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said, “More children eating school lunches and fewer having packed lunches” would result in “more children being healthier and more energetic throughout the day, and the nation, as a result, benefiting from improved brain power.”

About Joanne


  1. The removal of peanut butter, because of allergies, also makes lunches more difficult for picky eaters. PB&J used to be a common alternative lunch and, with low-sodium PB, all-fruit spread and whole wheat bread, a nutritionally reasonable one.

  2. The ‘Healthy’ federal lunches aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. My community participates in the federally funded ‘free lunch for kids’ summer program. They publish the menus in the paper. The main dish is usually something like chicken nuggets, nachos, or a hotdog. Forget portion sizes— If my kids were eating that sort of stuff for lunch every day, their behavior would rapidly deteriorate! Plus, the ‘healthy’ meals tend to cut proteins in favor of carbs, so you’re looking at a major mid afternoon blood sugar crash.

    If I had to send them to school, I have no idea HOW I’d feed them. As it is, ‘lunch’ is usually leftovers from dinner. (I.e. Pot Roast with potatoes, carrots, and green beans. Or pasta with meat sauce and a salad. Or Stir fry, heavy on the veggies.)

    The whole school lunch program is a mess. There has got to be a better way.

    • Shut it down and tell parents that it’s their responsibility to feed their kids. I pretty sure that many/most of those who get free/reduced meals come from households also receiving food stamps – so the kids are getting 1-3 meals at school “extra”.

      I would, however, have the food stamp program (eligibility/amount per person) run by the states. Cost of living varies enormously and many rural/small town people can have gardens, go hunting, fishing and foraging (wild berries, grapes etc). I’d also place strict limits on the kinds of foods allowed. I see far too many people buying sodas, frozen pizzas and other prepared food, baked goods etc. Those choices should be on their own dime.

  3. When I attended public school, we were stuck with campus food (unless we wanted to brown bag it), and we had the candy/ice cream shop in middle/high school, and we could go off campus for lunch in high school (we had 30 mins for lunch).

    The school cafeteria served reasonably tasty foods, including fruits/veggies, and chef salads.

    Of course, these days, the candy/ice cream shop is history, the campuses are closed (that happened when 2 teens died, and 3 were seriously injured on their way back to school from burger king, and the unlicensed 15 year old driver speeding crashed her dad’s car into a light pole splitting it in half).

    When kids get hungry enuf, they’ll eat the food in front of ’em (I had a baked fish filet sandwich with tomato/lettuce/tartar sauce for lunch today), that’s a decent meal, and was less than 500 calories…


    • Part of the problem is that less than 500 calories is NOT ENOUGH for a growing second grader involved in sports, much less for active high school kids. For instance, according to the Children;s Nutrition Research Center, a 14 year old boy who is 5′ 6″ and weighs 120 pounds and who plays sports needs 3438 calories every day if you don’t want to stunt his growth. If he was a couch potato, he’d still need 2190 a day.

      If we starve the kids, they won’t be able to learn.

      Here’s the link to the calculator. It’s heartening to see that the reason your kids eat like a plague of locusts is because…. they’re starving.

      • Heck, my nine year old apparently needs 2500 calories a day.

        • All of my older kids were serious full-time travel soccer players, who had at least 10-12 workouts, practices and/or games per week (multiple teams, including adult) by the time they hit HS at 13. My DD was a serious swimmer, who added before-school (0430!) practices to the afternoon ones, starting at age 9 (her request and not every day yet). By 8th grade, she was training 5 hours a day on school days. Any of them would have been fainting on a 500-calorie breakfast or lunch. They needed a heavy calorie load at breakfast and lunch because they couldn’t train after eating. Fortunately, they took healthy, home-made bag lunches and breakfasts. Yes, many kids are obese and/or couch potatoes, but there are also more full-time elite athletes than ever.

          • And that calculator I posted defines ‘very active’ as an hour a day of activity! Oddly, many school districts serve the same lunches to the elementary kids as they do to the high school kids. How is that at all grounded in reality?

            I suspect the ‘low-cal lunch’ movement is really just a cost cutter…

  4. “EAT BREAKFAST AT SCHOOL” Breakfast is available before school in each building’s cafeteria. School breakfast helps students be more alert so they can learn more in class. Breakfast is a great way to gain vitamins and nutrients for a stong and healthy body. Breakfast is affordable too! A family qualifying for free or reduced-priced lunch receives the same benefits for breakfast. Help your child start the day off right with school breakfast!