Open Phones: New School Lunches

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

This year school lunches have caloric limits and feature more fruits and vegetables, but reports from around the country show children throwing their greens away. What are you hearing from the school-aged kids in your life? Are the lunches well received or too small? Tell us in the comments section, or call in to 212-433-WNYC, 212-433-9692.

Comments [27]


A fourth grade student went undercover to film his school's lunch offerings and made a documentary to show how the menus don't necessarily match what is actually being served.

Oct. 25 2012 02:53 AM

Len -- agree of course -- but how to fit these great notions into school time? The only ways I can imagine:

1. turn the cafeteria into an educational experience;

2. hold mandatory "nutrition" class (possibly along w money management, for every grade), or component of health or science class.

Oct. 09 2012 04:19 PM
Len from Manhattan

Superf88 makes a great point. A lot of the food rejection at school has to do with our taste buds being "tricked" by artificial flavors and additives. Unfortunately much of the food being cooked at home also contain many of these chemicals as well.

I have two solutions:
- Cooking classes are definitely in order. No one knows how to make anything from scratch anymore. Instead of buying pancake mix and syrup, I actually made buttermilk pancakes from scratch and bought real maple syrup; it was amazing how much better the real stuff tastes

- Education about food and how its been changed to satisfy corporate profit. We need to read the ENTIRE food label, including the ingredients. Our kids need to know that HFCS replaced cane sugar. They need to know that cows used to graze; now they're being herded onto feedlots. Take the kids on a trip to a greenmarket to see what real vegetables look like.

Oct. 09 2012 12:54 PM
RBC from NYC

I'm still waiting for this government to make a stronger effort for more physical education and activity during the school day.

Oct. 09 2012 12:38 PM

Lastly, I've found it can take 2 months to a year or more to change peoples' taste buds, get them un-addicted from high salt/sugar/fat and back to enjoying real flavors. It is much easier to pull off in conjunction with an exercise routine, to give folks pride and awareness in their bodies.

Oct. 09 2012 12:33 PM
berry from Hells Kitchen

I don't see the problem. Want a bigger lunch? Don't like what's served at school? Bring lunch from home. I went to Catholic school and then a public selective high school, neither of which had a lunch program or cafeteria. We brought lunch from home, problem solved. Cheap to pack. It's not the school system's fault that kids prefer junk food. The school lunch program is for poor children who's parents can't afford to feed them, and if the offerings are edible and nutritionally balanced then the lunch program has done its job.

Oct. 09 2012 12:18 PM
glork from Glen Ridge, NJ

Vegetable soups. Bean soups. Beans and rice. Turkey chili. Tacos or sloppy joes made with the soy protein. Investigate what France,the Netherlands and Scandinavia are serving and copy those ideas for inspiration. Poll the kids-
what WILL they eat? Do not follow their requests blindly, but DO listen to what they have to say and then modify the food to a healthy version of the suggestion. ASK THEM : How could we help you get 3 servings of fruits/ vergetables? Make a contest! From 4th grade on, let them have some input on a lunch survey. Maybe it's worth spending a little extra on the strawberries instead of the apples sometimes, just as many of us do at home to tempt them.
Some will only eat the tuna fish or peanut butter every day nonetheless; but the salad waste appalls me. The spring mix I buy is $9.00 a pound- lettuces- can you imagine?- so seeing salad wasted is especially galling.

Oct. 09 2012 12:12 PM
Vanessa from Redding

Also, I notice the kids that ate fewer vegetables overall and more snack foods (they can get chips, etc for extra $) are overweight. This is just anecdotal but it can't be just a coincidence.
For those who aren't on free or reduced lunch they can buy 2 lunches.

Oct. 09 2012 12:10 PM
Jocelyn from Livingston

I was Co-chair of the Nutrition Committee in my daughter's elementary school for 5 years.
We organized healthy eating periodically. In numerous occasions when we brought FRESH AND NUTRITIOUS FRUITS
During lunch to serve the students, all the fruits were eaten and more students expressed their enthusiasm and interest for more fruits.
Healthy eating has to be a joint effort between school and home.
We cannot have a disconnect between school and home.
We all have to pitch in and support our community and schools against the Obesity fight.

Oct. 09 2012 12:08 PM
Vanessa from Redding, CT

*In our elementary school I got volunteer parents to help the kids make healthy choices in lunch line by pushing the fruits & veggies. My article about these efforts on Jamie Oliver's Food Rev site:

*Also I try to help parents start early so their kids eat well from their first foods on.

*Lunches aren't too small but the food service providers make many/most fruits & vegetables optional so they put only the protein & starch on the food tray. Looks empty but then there are as many vegetables & fruits for them to chose from. What I notice was that the kids eat more when not given so much choice on whether to take them or not. Also many of the kids don't eat veggies at home! We need to start early.

*Get rid of kids' meals in restaurants and at home. Kids eating what their parents eat have better diets.

Oct. 09 2012 12:06 PM
Edward from NJ

@superf88, for students who qualify -- based on their parents' income -- these lunches are subsidized or even free. Other students pay full price, but it's the same lunch for everyone.

Oct. 09 2012 12:03 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

When I was a kid back in the old 1950s Brooklyn, most of us kids threw away the lunches our mothers lovingly prepared for us and put into those brown paper bags, and we'd go out instead and buy freshly made knishes from the knish man's cart topped off by a lemon Italian ices or washed down with a chocolate "egg cream" soda we got from Louie's next door from our little parochial school. But there wasn't yet as much junk food available in those days as there is today. That's why weren't generally as obese as many kids are today.

Oct. 09 2012 12:03 PM
Morgan from Manhattan

Parents, raise your children to eat well or send them to school with Snickers bar and a 24 oz. Mountain Dew and let Darwinism take care of things. "Michelle Obama's fault." That cafeteria woman should be fired.

Oct. 09 2012 11:59 AM


they are not allowed to get more than one lunch

Oct. 09 2012 11:58 AM
Michael from New York

The comments of the student involved in sports is relevant. Many years ago, when I was in high school, our health class had us count the calories we ate in a day. I was very active, on the basketball team, and I had counted 7,000 to 8,000 calories as my daily intake. Young recruits in the army eat 10,000 calories a day. People's calorie needs vary. Couch potatoes need fewer, athletes need more...

Oct. 09 2012 11:58 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Let the kids get hungry enough and they'll eat salad. And other healthy foods. Just like so many hungry children all over the world would be deliriously happy to get ANY food.

Oct. 09 2012 11:57 AM
Dan Lilie from Encinitas, CA

I live in Encinitas California, where there is an 11 month growing season. At my kids school-on the site of a fabulous farmers market--they sling sugar and fat bombs with impunity. Alice Waters has conquered the Berkeley schools with a farm-to-table sensibility. The US is the only country that has institutionalized "kid food." This is clear cut: we need immediate, drastic measures to get garbage out of schools.

Oct. 09 2012 11:57 AM

There's so many problems with this law. I like Mrs. Obama too, but anyone that has rolls around with personal assistants, housekeepers, chefs, drivers, and a security detail doesn't have the insight into what's going on in the American school lunch room.

First, the fact that kids are getting less food and paying more for it is ridiculous in itself.

Second, each kid's nutritional needs are different. Some kids need less food, but some kids need more.

Third, the unintended consequence of this law is it may actually cause obesity. If children are going home after school hungry because they're not eating enough during the day, they will eat more when they get home.

Oct. 09 2012 11:57 AM
Ruth from Brooklyn NY

what is going on that kids don't eat salad? Hello, Parents! Not doing your job. My four-year old LOVES salad! Perhaps there should be teaching students about food... perhaps have a gourmet cooking class.

Oct. 09 2012 11:57 AM

My daughters are 11 (middle school) and growing like crazy. Both of them are underweight and frequently wake up during the night because they are metabolizing their food so quickly.

And this is bogus anyway--the official lunch is the right number of calories, but the kids are allowed to buy a la carte to get anything they want, and then they don't get covered by reduced price lunch for it, so we end up paying more than a regular-priced lunch.

Finally, let's not forget the vending machines for soda, snacks, candy, ice cream and juice that are right in the cafeteria.

Oct. 09 2012 11:56 AM
Edward from NJ

Most students *aren't* athletes. Why should we gear calorie counts to their needs?

Also, it seems like it's mainly high school students who are complaining. Younger kids won't know the difference, or they'll get used to it.

Oct. 09 2012 11:55 AM

again -- are these free lunches?

are people not allowed to bring their own lunches or buy two?

please add something to the story we already know...

Oct. 09 2012 11:54 AM
gloria from brooklyn

They used to throw out the fruits and vegetables before the new rules. You could go to any public elementary school lunchroom 10 years ago and see the trash cans filled with the mandated fruits and vegetables- because there were fruits and vegetables mandated then as well. This isn't new. And this story is some kind of election-year propaganda.

Oct. 09 2012 11:54 AM
Jon Pope from Ridge, NY

School lunch has always been bad and expensive compared to packing your own lunch. I just don't understand this. Its a choice to buy school lunch, not required. Are parents and kids so lazy they cant pack their own lunch?

Oct. 09 2012 11:52 AM

Or is this one of those "Get your Socialist hands off of my Government lunch."

Oct. 09 2012 11:50 AM

can't the kids who need extra food bring more lunch? or buy two lunches -- or are these government-purchased foods?

lacking info here

Oct. 09 2012 11:48 AM
Jill from Westchester

Yes - lunches are now too small. I love Michelle Obama, but shouldn't childhood nutrition be the focus, not obesity? My 17 year old reports having to buy more food at lunch this year than last because the portions have been reduced (and prices have gone up). We live in a Westchester suburb - he walks (his choice) one mile to school and one mile home each day. He's 6 feet tall and still growing. The last thing I'm worried about is a weight problem. I want him to have enough calories to get through the day. He comes home starving. What about children who go home to households where the cupboards are empty?

Oct. 09 2012 11:22 AM

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