Our Proposals

Aramark School Lunch as Advertised:  The Myth                                                        aramark2

Actual Aramark School Lunch: The Reality

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Photo Credit: Shirley Hernandez

Off Campus Lunch

Why are students at some schools trusted while we are not? We are as responsible as students in the magnet schools and deserve off campus lunch. There are some restrictions though. We propose that only juniors and seniors be allowed to leave the building for their lunch period. To be eligible they would have to be passing all their classes and have no cutting. If cutting occurs, the privilege would be revoked. Eligible students could be reevaluated weekly during advisory. Students would be given a different color pass every week with their name on it. Those who start failing a class or cut class will not receive a pass the following advisory. Using these restrictions will make off campus lunch an option for certain students and will help the system track students who are able to leave the building. This is a privilege for students, they need to earn it. This will make students strive to work harder and do better in school, which is beneficial for our school.

Vending machines

Other schools have vending machines and we should too. Some schools have vending machines on every floor. At Schurz they sell Honey Buns, which aren’t even healthy. They could be filled with healthy/semi-healthy snacks and drinks. This would increase variety and make hundreds of dollars for our school.
We would like to see items such as apples, baked chips, granola bars, Rice Krispy treats, Fiber One bars, Pop-Tarts, cookies, gum, and drinks like Arizona iced tea, Gatorade, vitamin water, apple/orange juice, and bottled water.
Vending machines should be placed in the cafeteria. That way students will not over-crowd the halls and it will keep food out of the classrooms.

Kiosk in Cafeteria

Over the years Roosevelt has been losing millions of dollars due to budget cuts. Being able to sell snacks in the kiosk will bring a small amount of money back to our school. It was a bad decision to take away the kiosk we had in the lunchroom. Kids can no longer buy juice, cookies, chips, slushies, and other things they used to buy. The school is not getting that money from students, which could be used to get new tables or fix the floor in the lunchroom. Since they took the kiosk away we have kids that are selling candy and chips they are sneaking inside school. This is bad because you don’t know what they could be putting in the food and they are making money for themselves. If Roosevelt would open the kiosk all the money could go to the school instead to fix up the lunchroom.
We should sell cookies and ice cream because students like to have something sweet and the school lunch doesn’t come with anything sweet.  Chicago has crazy cold winters and selling coffee or hot chocolate can warm students and staff up while they are waiting to be released to go to class. Many classrooms don’t have air conditioning. On hot summer days slushies can be sold.

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Slushie machine at Forman.  Photo credit: Shirley Hernandez

Changes in the lunch itself

We need something to drink besides milk or chocolate milk for lunch. Not all students can or want to drink milk every day. They should offer apple or orange juice like they used to, or bottled water. They should also offer a dessert such as cheese cake, cookies, yogurt, flan, or tres leche cake. Providing a dessert will keep kids from sneaking food into school and eating during instruction. The cardboard lunch trays are gross and bad for the environment. We also need new tables and chairs in the cafeteria.

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Green chicken has got to go.  Maybe it was grass fed?  Photo Credit: Shirley Hernandez

Delivery Area in the Cafeteria

In our research we found at least one school that allows students to order outside food and have it delivered to the cafeteria. This makes their lunch more enjoyable. Students have been working hard to succeed and bring up our school’s reputation. Therefore, we deserve a better lunch.
Delivering food to the cafeteria should be allowed. Students should have the opportunity to choose what they would like to eat. Since Aramark cafeteria food is similar, and sometimes worse than Aramark prison food, we should not have to eat it because it is low quality. We are not prisoners so there is no reason why we can’t order our own. If a good meal was provided to us there would be no reason to buy our own but since we are not provided with good quality food we should at least have the choice to pick what we would like to eat.
Having a specific delivery area in the cafeteria is an incredible idea, because students will not go out to get food outside of school. This will create more jobs for businesses and students will have a variety of choices. In Roosevelt we do not have many choices and we get bored of the same food. This is not common in many neighborhood schools, so it can attract students. This will also improve attendance for 8th period because many students leave to go get food.

10 thoughts on “Our Proposals

  1. This group has some valid concerns, but in order for the concerns and proposals that have been outlined on this website to be taken seriously, some additional research on the federal meal standards is necessary.

    I would highly recommend that the class research the National School Lunch Program nutrition requirements detailed in the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act (HHFKA). It is a federal law that milk must be served at lunch, and that juice cannot be substituted because it is not a nutritionally equivalent beverage to juice (milk contains protein, vitamin D and calcium, unlike juice). There are also very strict sodium, fat and calorie requirements that each meal must meet; offering dessert items would not only increase food cost but most likely would make the meal fall outside of the nutritional standards. The proposals made by students should be in line with the federal nutrition standards if they are to have real-life application.

    The reason that many of the items are no longer available from the kiosk is that they may not meet the Smart Snacks in School Standards. The Smart Snacks nutrition criteria are competitive food standards, which the HHFKA also mandated be put into place. Competitive foods are any food sold outside of the normal lunch or breakfast program at school. Research on these standards when suggesting items for the vending machines and kiosks would show that you are educated on the nutritional standards and are actually putting forth proposals that can realistically be put into action.

    It also seems contradictory to condemn cafeteria food for its lack of nutritional content, but then ask for desserts, cookies, ice cream.

    One last note- the cardboard lunch trays that are “bad for the environment” are actually compostable trays that have been made possible to be purchased by the cooperative buying power group made up of some of the largest school districts in the nation.

    I’m impressed that a high school class is taking such initiative! But it is extremely important that becoming educated on the subject of the change being requested is stressed. So many times people base their opinions on uneducated perceptions. Knowledge is power and the more you know, the stronger and more credible your arguments become, which increases the chances that a change will actually be made!

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    • As a parent for a child who may or may not enter this school, this whole site has brought to light a rather severe problem that is in dire need of fixing. Your comment does bring up a couple of interesting points.

      1. When quoting the HHFKA, you are incredibly nebulous and vague. You have provided no source materials in which to educate the students, you have condemned the kiosk without knowing what was being sold there, and you just quote snippets of federal mandating here and there without correlating it to the problems at hand.

      2. How can you attack their claims for better nutrition when all you heavily imply that all they want is junk food. They are high school students, of course they are going to ask for desert. However, this group of teenagers has shown maturity in that they also want fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, options for vegans/vegetarians, granola bars, bottled water, etc. To their credit, not once have they asked for soda. The fact that they have a mini black market for junk food is a problem that the school can fix in which it can regulate with in conjunction to non-garbage treats.

      3. You shoot them down, and not once have you mentioned the gross abominations that are shown in the pictures. How is eating rotten plant matter nutritious? How is a meal plan that is mostly composed of burgers and pizza nutritious? How can you be okay with a company that sites the ingredients for chicken nuggets as ‘chicken nuggets?’ How many problems are being caused by milk that has been sitting in room temperature.

      4. Your entire tone for your post is so condescending and pedantic that there is no feasible way that I can interpret your message as a way to help these children. The fact that you described the trays with the line of “…made possible to be purchased by the cooperative buying power group…” has me fully convinced that you have a financial stake in Aramark.

      The only issue with my comment is the possible redundancy of it; because if I can see through your transparency, I have no doubt that the students and their parents will be able to easily do the same thing.

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      • 1. Students can Google search HHFKA just like you and I can. We can teach students to do research and build their own arguments without spoon feeding them every single word to say.

        2) While students are asking for healthy food, they are also asking for unhealthy foods. The first commenter is providing some rational for why the kiosk foods were taken away. It’s not mean administrators or Aramark that did it; it’s the national Smart Snacks standards. If there is a black market for candy, that’s an issue for the school principal to address, not the school meals program.

        3) Not once does the first commenter tell student that they have to settle for low quality food. Over cooked, under cooked, stale, and/or rotten food is not acceptable. The commenter simply notes that the nutritional value -different than quality and freshness of food- is low for the sugary foods requested for vending machines.

        4) Believe it or not, there are thousands and thousands of professional that work in and around the school meals field that know a little something about nutrition standards, national laws, and competitive buying that don’t work for Aramark. Google search Urban School Food Alliance and you’ll see that this is a legit group helping school districts leverage their buying power. CPS is a member of this alliance; it has nothing to do with Aramark.

        Good luck to you and your child in your future endeavors. I hope you find there are healthy changes made in the school before your student arrives. If not, I encourage you and your student to become involved in the school’s wellness committee to advocate for healthy changes.

        PS. I don’t work for Aramark. I’m one of the thousands of professionals that work in the school meals space for a living.

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  2. Our local school district serves fresh, home-made food and uses LOCAL produce whenever they can. They serve a large variety and every school – even at the elementary level – has a salad bar option. They manage to do this within the confines of a strict budget and a district where more than half the kids qualify for free lunch. There’s absolutely no reason it can’t be done in Chicago. None.

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  3. While I acknowledge the civic lesson available with this school meals discussion, I encourage these students and their civics teacher to dig deeper into the facts and create better foundations for their arguments. Making these changes because “students have been working hard to succeed and bring up our school’s reputation” isn’t a strong enough reason to motivate administrators –especially when there is a potential cost to making changes. I encourage you to build your arguments around the idea that low quality food is a social justice issue and how low food quality (and low food consumption) impacts academic achievement and school connectedness.

    After reading through this website I understand these students want: 1) higher quality food, 2) a better variety of options, 3) an a la cart line (or kiosk) with sugary desserts, 4) vending machines, 5) the ability to leave campus for lunch, and 6) the ability to have food delivered to the cafeteria. Let’s break these down one at a time as I think some are legitimate requests and others are not.

    Starting with #1: Higher quality of food served at school meals. I think this is a totally legitimate request. If students are given rotted, unappetizing food then they should absolutely demand better of their food service department. No student should have to eat partially cooked, over cooked, stale or rotted food.

    The long ingredient list for school meals is a separate issue. Offering only food made from whole, fresh ingredients, without any preservatives or processing is unlikely for large scale cooking. I’m not saying fresh produce and salad bars are unlikely, but fresh from the farm chicken and homemade bread are not feasible for mass cooking. Remember there are hundreds and hundreds of students to feed every day.

    Also, keep in mind that any food stocked in the vending machine (see #4) will have a long list of artificial ingredients just like the hamburgers that are reportedly despised.

    #2: Better variety of options served during school meals. I don’t think this is a legitimate request. When I pulled up the menu for the school, I saw 5-7 entrée options available including 2-3 vegetarian options daily. I saw a variety of fresh, canned, cooked, and previously frozen fruits and vegetables offered-some of which were deemed to be locally sourced. Food service staff are not short order cooks. They can’t please the needs and wants of every student every single day. If students really aren’t happy with the options available, they can work with food service staff to hold taste tests to help determine menu options.

    As for beverages, there are federal regulations that require schools to offer milk and water at lunch. Does that mean that the school can’t provide juice? No, they could include juice as part of the meal, but it’s expensive and would be considered a fruit, not a calcium/protein source. Balancing cost is as big of a challenge as creating a menu that meets the nutritional standards and pleases students at the same time.

    #3: Add an a la cart line (or kiosk) with candy, cookies, and ice cream. I think this is a partially legitimate request. I say partially legitimate because the food and beverages sold in a kiosk also fall under national school meals guidelines. That means much of the sugary, sweet foods requested would not be allowed. There are, however, healthy options that could be sold at a kiosk if students are interested in purchasing healthy foods and beverages.

    #4: Bring back vending machines. I think this is also a partially legitimate request for the same reasons as the kiosk request. Food and beverages sold in vending machines have to comply with federal nutrition standards called Smart Snacks standards (different than school meals, but standards nonetheless). These standards limit the amount of sugar, fat, and calories sold in any one snack during the school day. They also limit the types and sizes of beverages sold in vending machines. Again, if students are interested in purchasing healthy options this is a possibility. Stocking honey buns, however, is not a legitimate option.

    #5 Allow students to leave campus during lunch. I think this is a partially legitimate request, but difficult to administer. In addition to the sheer logistics of this endeavor, there are a host of issues to consider including potential liability issues for school administrators. Who’s responsible if a student is hurt or falls ill while off campus for lunch? What happens if students leave for lunch, but don’t come back for the second half of the day? What healthy food options are available close to the school campus? What timeframe do students have for lunch? Is it enough time to leave and come back after a healthy lunch? How does the decreased revenue affect the school meals program? Will school meals staff be laid off because there isn’t enough revenue from students eating in school?

    #6 Allow food to be delivered to the cafeteria. I don’t think this is a legitimate request. If students don’t like what’s offered for school meals they are free to bring a sack lunch when they come to school. Allowing delivery of fast food to the school cafeteria is not a luxury many, if any, schools afford their students in this day and age. Delivery may create one or two local, low-paid jobs, but mostly it would serve as a mechanism for high fat, high calorie foods to enter the cafeteria –working directly against the national nutrition standards.

    Remember work with your food service department to make changes together. Don’t just start a fight and then refuse to participate in finding a solution.

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  4. It is important, I agree, that students educate themselves as to the federal regulations which lead to the poor menu planning decisions made which effect not only the quality, but variety, of their lunch options. They should not stop there, either. They should look into why these regulations exist, the political motivations behind them, and, to quote the common phrase, “follow the money”.

    They should address the fact that the similarities of their lunches to institutional food is by design, and benefits regulators, politicians, administrators and private/public business partnerships far more than it does the actual consumers (even if paid through tax dollars) of the products.

    The statement of lunch staff not being “short order cooks” is frankly a telling one. First, the lunch staff isn’t on the side of the students, nor the administration. They are paid, and held accountable, to slapping whatever they are told onto the trays and passing them to the students, and keeping a count of what they serve (by head) to be sure funding continues to flow (see my previous paragraph). They are not food service professionals, and even their “space” (as another commenter put it) is seen differently than restaurants and quick service.

    And this is part of the problem. Reaching out to the lunch staff, when they have their hands tied by administrators, bureaucrats and private/public partnerships which work quite hard to “keep them in their place” as merely a part of the “distribution model”, accomplishes nothing.

    Also, they should take note of the tone used by those whom defend federal lunch standards. It is demeaning and hides behind the logic that “this system we established is reality”. In other words, a castle has been constructed, and now those who seek to profit from it, either as “social justice activists” or as private interest “lobbyists” are protecting it.

    If the students want “change” (yeesh, I hate to parrot that phrase), yes, they should certainly become aware of the standards, why they exist, and form a concrete argument as to why they do not work.

    Remember, at one time Ketchup was reclassified as a “vegetable” (or, more accurately, pickle relish was). Pizza (well, as long as it has 2 Tablespoons of Tomato Paste in the sauce) is qualifies as a vegetable under current guidelines. Now, Fruit Juice, is a Fruit? Seriously?

    And, those who defend these sorts of convoluted concepts hide behind “well, it’s the law, and it’s part of providing a nutritious and balanced meal to all students”. I have to question any law that is so short sightedly bureaucratic that it classifies pizza sauce as a vegetable.

    So yes, they should look into the current law, as well as the failed laws of the past 40 some odd years which have led to the situation we have today. Look into the omnibus laws of 80 and 81, the NSLA (National School Lunch Act) and the CNA (Child Nutrition Act). And then, ask…why do these laws even exist and whom do they benefit the most?

    Ask and then keep asking, and don’t take condescending responses as facts (even if they are well meaning responses, if the core logic is based on a manufactured “reality”, keep asking why until the truth comes out).

    Milk and water are the only two beverages allowed? Why is this considered even a viable option? In fact, why is it even mandatory to begin with? Who seeks to gain from heavy handed regulations done at the federal level which dramatically effect local school funding (through the state funding and the wonderful way, like most federal programs, the 10th Amendment is sidestepped…legal, but still questionable when you consider it)? Who profits from saying students should have “healthy lunches” and then passing laws, yet allowing contractors (or government agencies) to “race to the bottom” by meeting only the barebones requirements of the regulations?

    Why is it considered an acceptable “defense” (as opposed to an excuse) for unappetizing and poorly planned lunches to be served, as long as said lunches meet the nutritional “checkboxes” mandated by Congress and enforced by the Executive?

    Yes, they certainly should do some research, but it shouldn’t end with “oh, well, it’s federal law, so that’s the way it is!” And, they certainly shouldn’t allow their concerns to be invalidated by a shallow “compliance” argument that, quite likely, is initiated by those with skin in the game. Those looking to defend the castles they erected for personal and/or political profits.

    As they continue their boycott, I’d suggest one thing. They need to find out what their per student lunch spending dollar (to include subsidy dollars) is and pin that on their shirts. Pass through the line, but get nothing. Video tape the protest and stick it on youtube.

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  5. I commend the students for taking a stand and developing concrete proposals. I have read of a few schools which have established urban gardens of their own, and a few farm-to-school lunch table initiatives, and wonder whether these are viable in this location. I wish the kids the best of luck improving their lunch menu. Never give up.

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  6. Pingback: Chicago High School Students Threaten Boycott | Jacob Kenyon

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