Is having the option enough?

Records prove students choose an unhealthy lunch

Adekemi Kasali and Donald Crocker

According to the Food Revolution Network, 50 percent of American students’ daily calories come from meals at school. A lot of the foods served at schools in the country aren’t well balanced or nutritious.

In fact, the majority of H-F’s lunchroom sales consist of chips, cookies, fruit snacks, and french fries. Cookies are the lunchroom’s most sold item, with 13,324 sales in January. During this month 6,569 units of fries were bought by students at lunch as opposed to 578 units bought at the salad bar.

To combat this problem, over the years legislation was passed to ensure students were getting healthier foods while at school.

One of these pieces of legislation was the National School Lunch Program, passed in 1946, which “provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day.” 95 percent of K-12 schools in the country participate in this program.

H-F doesn’t participate in the National School Lunch Program, and as a result, doesn’t have many nutritional guidelines on food in the lunchroom.

Director of Dining Services, Shacana Watkins, said the items sold in the cafeteria are based on students’ preferences and that new items are added based on trends and feedback from Principal’s Advisory Council meetings.

Watkins has worked here for six months and said that since she came to H-F, food quality, variety, and freshness have increased. Though H-F doesn’t have a wellness policy, she tries to add more nutrition to the menu.

Having items such as all beef burgers, offering alternative vegetable options with french fries, having more salad options and Asian dishes that contain fresh vegetables are ways Watkins is doing this. However, most students aren’t opting for these options.

“I think I can rationally say that most of the students do not go for the nutritional foods. They go for convenience, the foods that are high in fat,” Health teacher Ross Howatt said. “The pizza, cookies, french fries, and flamin hots. The worst thing we have to offer is Mountain Dew Kickstarts.”

Sophomore Fernanda Vasquez is a vegetarian who buys lunch at school everyday. She said it’s not as difficult as it seems to eat lunch at H-F.

“It’s easy, not because they make it vegetarian friendly on purpose per se, they just have a lot of options. There’s cheese pizza, if you want pizza. They have those taco bowls you can get without ground beef…The wrap line has a lot of veggies and that’s what I get everyday,” Vasquez said.

Health teacher Cara Boss said she thinks that it comes down to what the student wants to eat, rather than what is available for students to eat.

“I think the options can be made healthy but I think that’s up to the individual student. I think that because it’s a business and they need to sell things that students eat,” Boss said.

Behind the scenes are a team of people who make the lunchroom run. They are on the “front lines everyday” according to Watkins, meaning that they are at school everyday to make sure food standards are maintained.

Along with Watkins, Cherriee Thomas, Anita Bailey, and Vivian Phillips decide what new items will be added to the menu. Every three weeks, the team tries out new items to see how students respond to them.

“We try to pull in what you guys [students] like, but we also try to give you guys choices that are good for you,” Food Unit Lead and Assistant Manager Cherriee Thomas said. “We stick with portion control and provide vegetable options with every meal.”

The nutritional information for the daily lunch menus currently aren’t available to view for parents or students.

This will change during the 2019-2020 school year Watkins said. Through an electronic app students will be able to look at the menu along with nutritional information.

“Fatty foods are here and they’re here to stay. But the thing is, do you have a strong enough will to get into the other line? The lines for the deli and the more nutritional foods,” Howatt said.