The battle for student nutrition


Photo by Adrienne Parks

Ding. The bell rings over the intercom, and the student picks up her tray. She walks toward the trash can. She throws away her empty tray, and walks out, and in the back of her mind again was thankful she got some food before heading home.

The goal of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was to increase funding for schools, which would allow more schools to offer free and reduced lunches, and increase the amount of healthy options provided by schools. Sugar and sodium have been restricted, as well as more whole grain foods being required. Still, many question if this bill has had a positive impact on students.

“Yes and no,” LISD Child Nutrition Director Cynthia McClenny said. “Kids are eating more salads during lunch, especially at the high school. They are eating a lot of fruits and vegetables too.”

The reforms made were to help curb the apparent child obesity problem in America, which is why, for example, regular pasta has been replaced with the whole grain alternative. Some students, like junior Kassie Lindamood, think that the school lunches aren’t healthy even with the changes.

“Many of the ‘healthy’ food options the school offers seem [to be] either covered in bread or fried,” Lindamood said. “Half the time the food doesn’t look edible and is covered in grease. Plenty of times I have seen the fruit option of the day covered in corn syrup.”

This summer, the bill is going to be revised, which may change things in favor of the school. Many school districts, including LISD, claim that these restrictions have had a negative financial impact.

“For manufacturers, food made for schools is a small part of their large plan,” McClenny said. “When they go to make food for school districts, they have to go out of their way to make sure they meet the nutrition standards, which raises prices. We cannot control this, and it affects our department.”

Food prices are going up, including those of fresh fruit, vegetables, and meats, which also affects schools. All of this will be subject to change very soon.

“My family doesn’t really make that much money, which is why I appreciate the reduced lunch plan,” Jones* said. “It really helps my family out when I can get meals at a lower cast at the school.”

*name changed to protect anonymity