What’s Wrong with our School Lunch?

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Frozen, mushy fruit cup.  Photo Credit: Itzel Perez

Low Quality

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.

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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.

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Frozen Applesauce.  Photo Credit: Itzel Perez

Limited Menu

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.

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The Chicken Patty.  Photo Credit: Alexis Navarro

Unhealthy

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.

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The Pizza: Often burnt, the cheese tastes like plastic.  

Photo Credit: Alaa Farge

Bad taste

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.

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26 thoughts on “What’s Wrong with our School Lunch?

    • Good for ya’ll – but if you start moaning about not getting Kool-Aid like the prisoners – you’re going to lose part of those who support you. Milk and water are good solid choices. But, yes – those meals look disgusting. However, when you get those green beans and broccoli on the menu that you’re working for, you don’t to moan that you’d rather have pizza.

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  1. These pictures are appalling. I applaud the work you’re doing here and hope you see a change.

    I grew up in the suburbs and on the free lunch program in the early 90s. I remember breakfast and lunch being delicious and filling. When so many kids depend on school lunch as their only meal of the day, it’s so important for them to be nutritional.

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  9. Keep up the good work, you guys are an inspiration! Aramark is terrible! The Aramark at my school offers a vegetarian option… a sunbutter and jelly sandwich. So I eat the same thing every single day! The bread is stale and it’s not healthy to eat the same thing day after day. There are hardly any vegetables offered, just mushy fruit.

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  10. Pingback: Students boycott school lunches they call worse than prison food | DigitalNights Media Canada

  11. I graduated in 2007 and this was the first time I’ve heard that it was not an option to have silverware or plastic trays haha. What?! That makes no sense. Guess the old days were the good ol’ days, and now we live in a poor country that cant afford plastic? I’m giving my kids silverware to eat their lunch, send me to jail if you must.

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  16. it’s not just this high school, it’s all over the nation. My daughter is 5 years old and in elementary school in Oklahoma. My husband and I went to have lunch with her one day and it was appalling. We have to pay and we had paid for her to have breakfast and lunch at school, we left it as a cash acct in case she wanted more… yeah she has 100.00 on her acct that we are in the process of getting refunded. That day they served elementary school kids dry sandwiches with stale bread, some type of soggy cheese bread thing with what was supposed to be pizza sauce that was just disgusting and fruit from a can that looked it has been sitting in a bunker since world war 2. That day I looked at my husband and we both agreed, we pack her lunch now. we have to be careful what we send or the school will take it away from her but seriously I wouldn’t feed that crap to dog much less little kids. that day my daughter got a sandwich.. she ate 4 bites and then threw her tray away… after witnessing the type of food, we understood why she was starving everyday when we picked her up. Never again! not going to happen.. I will NEVER send my babies to school without food that they will not only eat but actually tastes good.

    Good Job kids. keep it up.. hopefully it will get the attention on a larger scale than just your school… every school needs a reality check.

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  18. I am so glad I was a student in the 90s. You guys are really getting gypped on everything, including lunches. In my elementary and middle schools, we had a salad bar. Milk, bread, fresh fruit, and apple/orange/grape juices were provided on top of that. The salad bar was never full of wilted anything. It also included cottage cheese and tuna salad for those desiring protein.

    High school lunches were even better, with basically a food court where you could choose from a variety of sections, plus there was a Taco Bell cart that provided a hard or soft taco and a side of beans and cheese for $2.00 if the school lunch wasn’t to your liking. Seniors could leave campus for lunch.

    This wasn’t some wealthy school either. It was a basic high school in Lake Worth, FL which served an area of mostly minorities and second-generation immigrants from all over the world.

    One wonders why, in a time of unprecedented wealth and upward mobility in this nation, schools are not feeling the benefits. This nation was certainly less wealthy in the 90s, but schools had art, music, theater, and gym classes (my high school had an olympic-sized pool) which I understand are not available as much in most schools now. Poorer areas had these classes, but now they’re unavailable to even some non-poor area schools. Everything is being cut, privatized, and turned over to corporations. Corporations running schools, prisons, and health facilities are an extremely bad idea for one reason: their only goal is to lower the bottom line to make a profit for shareholders.

    If you ask me, health, educations, and law enforcement are not areas where anybody deserves to be making a profit. They are public services that affect us all, and turning a profit off of the backs of the needs of the public is fascism, not capitalism. Buck this system, kids. Or the world your kids live in will be much, much worse.

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