School cafeteria adopts healthier lunch menu


Sophomore Eric Schissel eats a lunch of peas and rice. Federal and state level mandates require schools to create healthier lunch menus.

School lunches look different this year. In order to promote healthier options for school lunches, new regulations have been put into effect to limit unhealthy food. As a response to the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act promoted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Ms. Michelle Obama, a new law to regulate the potential health value of public school lunches was recently issued, and cafeteria meals have been altered to benefit students’ health.

“I’m very supportive of changes that the state has made regarding healthier food choices for our students,” said Principal Mr. Ira Pernick. “I continue to be very impressed with the quality and variety of our offerings in the cafeteria.”

The new federal act requires school lunches to include more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and portion sizes determined by student ages. Starchy and fatty foods in lunches have been reduced, and fruit and vegetable serving sizes have grown. The new law has sparked controversy throughout the nation, and opinions of staff and students vary.

“Everything is whole wheat. It’s good for the children,” said cafeteria cashier Ms. Maria Gallo. “They try to cut down on the starch and things like that. They only cut out the fatty things like the bread.” Hamburger buns have been reduced from three ounces to two, but the size of the hamburger patties themselves is the same. School cafeterias have also stopped offering whole milk and chocolate milk in favor of low-fat or fat-free milk.

Although healthier options exist, they often are not as accessible as unhealthy foods in the cafeteria. Sandwiches and salads tend to cost more than the hot lunches, which are generally higher in sodium and fat. It is also easier to stop at the vending machines than to wait in line for a nutritious meal.

“I think it’s great that they’re giving you more options,” said Health teacher Ms. Meghan Harding. “Some of the kids’ concerns are that they can’t get the healthy food because it takes too long and is more expensive.”

Students are concerned with the smaller portion sizes of lunches.

“The amount of lunches they give us seems so little now and the prices have increased,” says sophomore Stacey Kim. “Also, I don’t understand why there is less lettuce in a salad, even though lettuce is healthy. It doesn’t make sense.”

“Healthy foods in the cafeteria don’t taste that bad, but the food portion is smaller,” said senior Michael Kuan. “I’m getting less for my money.”

Other students expressed a desire for more varied lunches accommodating more students.

“We need more gluten-free options,” said junior Amelia Pacht.

“Hopefully we, as a school body, take healthy options to the next level and choose them as opposed to just skipping it,” said Ms. Harding.