Dear Board Members:
If you were to go to McDonald’s and get a Happy Meal for a child under 11 years old, how many chicken nuggets do you order? You get a choice of four or six nuggets. An older child would need to order the 10-piece nugget meal. Today, I was flabbergasted to learn that my son was served 5 nuggets at school! The whole boys basketball team ate 5 nuggets for lunch on game day!
My son is a senior this year attending the public school. He and his table-mates have struggled this year because they are always hungry despite and because of the free breakfasts and free lunches which deter them from eating good full meals at home or from home. They play sports, take college level courses, and go to work. They have tried to supplement the school lunches by bringing their own meals to eat- and these substitutions have ranged from tacos to tortas to sandwiches, which they made as a group for themselves. This expense the 6 students from diverse backgrounds have all paid for with their own money (not their parents’). They planned ahead and then purchased the foods and brought it to the table to prepare and eat. The cost has ranged from $4 to $15 per person per meal.
They have tried to talk to me, my husband, the principal, and we talked to the food administrator and superintendent. We have been directed to look at the USDA requirements, of which are incredibly lacking of necessary sustenance. A child in first grade is served the same meal as the senior- but the only extras the students can get are fruits and vegetables. These growing athletes need 4,000 calories a day, and they need protein. Regulations attached to the free food students are served fall short of what they need.
When my son can’t supplement the cafeteria food at lunch time, he spends $6-$10 on fast food before coming home- totally defeating the purpose of “healthy, free lunches”. He has spent almost all of his earnings from his job on supplemental fast food. If he doesn’t do that, he comes home and eats everything he can find in my refrigerator, which I am happy to provide but feel sick to my stomach about knowing he was having severe hunger pains while trying to concentrate in school. And he is lucky- he leaves school after 6th hour because he has a work study class. His table-mates and basketball buddies don’t get that second time to eat.
He started this year as 6 feet and 159 pounds. He is currently now 6’1” and 169 pounds. Taking a look at him, he is not disproportionate except a wee bit skinny. What this tells me is that he is growing and putting on a lot of muscle, another obvious reason he and other students need to have bigger, better meals. If you were 169 pounds and 6’1”, with a basketball game and studies and a job, would you find the attached photos of meals and others like 5 nuggets or taco in a bag enough for you?
I have suggested an a la carte option, which is still on the school website. I prefer to go back to free and reduced lunches with paying for the lunch if we can afford it. I also think the idea the boys had to make their own meal together is worth looking into! We shouldn’t be sticking with this systematic starvation of children, which is another honest way of looking at this because it is based on diet plans to reduce obesity. But, there is such a thing as getting fat when your body tries to make reserves when there is not enough regular food.
Please, I urge you to revisit the way we do school lunch!
Sadly, only a mere 11% of eligible voters came out to vote on the school referendum question to extend an existing levy at LPGE schools. When absentee ballots and early voting was available, the low turnout with only a 29 vote difference is far from a vote of endorsement on taxation. However, here we are, with a decision.
No one could say exactly where this money would be spent except to potentially keep four staff positions. The taxed monies, however, are designated per pupil. As I have stated before, locals contribute $458 per pupil- but this levy goes toward $249.24 of that.
Of course, the District doesn’t just get funds from property taxes. According to usnews.com, a November 2018 snapshot of LPGE spending statistics reported that 72.4% of funding comes from State tax, 18.6% from local tax, and 8.9% from Federal tax. At that time, the revenue per student was $15,429. Expense per student was $11,987. Multiply by about 995 students to get your total revenue and expenditures.
By the way, I home school and have one child in the public school. I make no personal profit and get no reimbursements for teaching my kids at home. It’s quite the opposite- I cannot work a full-time job, so I sacrifice a lot for my kids to learn at home. We’ve never spent more than $1,000 per kid per year, and I would say our kids have done well without special funding. It isn’t the money that makes a child learn better— I would say it’s having a warm environment conducive to thinking well, along with appropriate coursework and courses that help a student learn and become a better person.
I am not sure where the school lunch comes into this per pupil amount. But this is a major area that can be improved upon to help students learn. The school has seemed to pride itself in providing “free” breakfast and “free” lunch for everyone. Many schools, maybe most of them, do this nowadays- and especially after COVID. But the reality is, you get what you pay for… and nothing is actually free. With parents not paying directly anymore, it’s hard for us even as taxpayers to get our voices heard about school food. It would be easier for us at this point to skip cooking a good breakfast before school and let our kid have a donut or pop-tart with apple juice served as the “healthy”, “free” school breakfast. What have we done, my friends?! A free breakfast removed the parent from the equation during morning hours. Was that the goal? Perhaps to ease the parents’ routine and give some “help” for their food budget? Now we have kids high on sugar and low on parental love and engagement- a recipe for discipline and health issues!
Currently, for lunch, a senior will eat nearly the same meal and portions as a first grader. It’s not enough. Furthermore, the school is tied down to a broken supply chain- food for free lunches isn’t even available to serve, and the staff has had to get creative. They’re not to blame- it’s the federal law promoted by Michelle Obama which created the mess in the school kitchen. The serving sizes, the food types, the cost to parents— really little thought went into what kids wanted or would eat. These laws have sucked the creativity out of the chefs- the rules have burned them out!
These are our children; and I find it difficult to believe our representatives who can change the current school lunch laws in Washington DC care about what’s served on trays in our cafeteria, unless there’s pork in the bill I don’t know about. Whether you follow the rules or not, want to change the rules or not—it’s a non-issue to them. Congress can dine on exquisite all-you-can-eat buffets full of delicious meats, rice and pastas, mounds of fruits and vegetables and even desserts in the congressional lobby room. I’ve been there. This is what they serve the people who think for us! And truly, if only we served that to our kids! Their grades would not suffer!
Really though, who cares what a few concerned parents say about their own children and school food? I mean, we can just tell them they are the only ones who find the portions or quality concerning; students for decades have complained about school food. Washington has bigger legislative items to worry about- like infrastructure bills with more ways to tax… and give… more… “free” items away. All with cheesy strings attached, though.
As the founding fathers desired- our taxation requires representation. The LPGE school would do well to get input from locals—from those of us making small property tax contributions; not just those who have deep pockets and access to more money. It’s time for some bold steps to move away from the free lunch program. I know it’s not exactly a cakewalk. It would mean parents being involved again. Parents showing they care. Parents paying for their children when they have the means to do so. If we could even move into the realm of creativity again and bring back a solid portion of food with meat and carbs that growing young men absolutely need, think of the brain power they would have. I imagine one day parents volunteering at the cafeteria, grandparents serving food, children not going hungry, and the only free food at school is when the students hear the lunch servers call them back for seconds after everyone has been served.