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!