Frozen, mushy fruit cup. Photo Credit: Itzel Perez
Until the late 1990’s everything served at our school was made from scratch. In fact, listen to how lunch used to be before Aramark. Interview with RHS science teacher and alum Pedro Alegre:
Today, our lunch at Roosevelt is no better than the ones in Cook County prison. In fact Aramark is the food service provider for both institutions. Prisons only care about one thing when it comes down to meals- that it has enough nutrients for what the human body needs, it doesn’t matter if it tastes or smells bad. One online review of the prison food shows that prisoners get better food from Aramark than we do. For example they have corn muffins, steamed carrots, green beans, also mac and cheese. They also drink Kool-Aid.
Photo Credit: Celeste Hernandez
Meanwhile at Roosevelt we get the same thing all over again with two options, pizza or hamburger. Often our milk and fruit cups are completely frozen. The fruit is still being served even when it’s spoiled and the fruit cups become soggy and mushy. Another example is sandwiches. The sandwiches only have ham OR cheese, not both and the bread is stale. Prisons get more options we consider to be good. This is why many students don’t eat the food and starve until they get home.
Frozen Applesauce. Photo Credit: Itzel Perez
The CPS lunch menu shows us what we are going to have for lunch every week. At Roosevelt High School they constantly rotate either hamburger, chicken patty or pizza. Every once in a while they’ll add a veggie burger, quesadilla, or nachos but they are not appetizing. Other schools have more options. We remember Michelle Obama wanting to get CPS students to eat healthy. What we are eating is not healthy; sometime it’s exasperating. Lunch time is the time where you eat and enjoy your free time. It’s supposed to be the place where students get the best healthy lunches like salads, sandwiches, fresh fruits, etc. Instead they give some gross, unhealthy food. There is no variety, and the only thing to drink every day is milk or water. We want greater variety in our lunch options.
The Chicken Patty. Photo Credit: Alexis Navarro
How healthy is our food really? We are teens, we are growing and we need foods that will assist with our development. In the 1980s this school used to have food so good that people from the community used to come to RHS to eat. (Listen to Mr. Alegre’s interview above). How can we go from that to now, when CPS treats Freedom of Information Act requests for lunch ingredients like a joke? When we finally received the information, we find that most meat products contain a lot of preservatives and fillers like soy protein. (CPS reveals that the only ingredients in its chicken nuggets are…chicken nuggets!)
Students are supposed to gain their energy back and eat a healthy lunch, but lunch is something hungry students don’t look forward to. Many students have gotten to the point where they don’t eat lunch at all. One reason for this is because the hamburger meat is discolored and dry. This is because it is cooked off site, frozen, then reheated at school, according to lunch ladies. The tomatoes have bad spots and the lettuce is wilted and brown. The fruit cups are often frozen or mushy. The pizza is so greasy you can put a napkin on it and soak up a lot of grease. Sometimes the milk is warm which means it hasn’t been in the fridge and could be spoiled. Since the food is reheated, sometimes it’s soggy and it could lose some nutrients. If any person came to check out the food Aramark serves its students they would agree it’s unhealthy. If we had a better lunch, we could have the energy to pay attention in class and not fall asleep or lose concentration.
Our school lunches aren’t the healthy choices advertised. Lots of people at RHS don’t eat meat. Sometimes the fruit is overripe and tastes bad. Students really want a change in the menu, other schools have better options while we get the same food repeatedly for weeks, months, and throughout the school year.
The Pizza: Often burnt, the cheese tastes like plastic.
Photo Credit: Alaa Farge
School lunch is unpleasant. Not many people eat it or if they do it’s because they have no choice. The chicken sandwiches taste abnormal; it seems like the chicken patties are not fresh. Sandwiches that have cheese and cucumber taste bitter. The cheeseburgers are dry and are unpleasant to eat. The pizza crust is hard and burnt. Sometimes the bread is stale and the milk is warm, or frozen and we don’t have anything to drink. The beans are hard and the salads are soft, wilted and some leaves are black.
In our interview with RHS lunch ladies, we learned that the food was much higher quality 2 years ago and tasted much better. The chicken was farm fresh and the pizza sauce was made from scratch. Some of the lunch ladies have been at Roosevelt for 14 years or more. There used to be four lines open, not two, and we had a lot more variety. Our lunch ladies said the food is all processed now but before 1989, everything was made from scratch.