OPINION: Healthy school lunches are a lost cause

By Emilee Ivan

Schools across America have been trying to give healthy options to students at lunch. Our school is included in this attempted change. Over the years I have experienced many changes to the lunches served to students. However, these changes have slowly disappeared. Looking through the lunch line the unhealthy options outweigh the healthy.

Healthy school lunches are a lost cause because students overall prefer to eat unhealthy foods and every lunch program tried has either been too healthy or not healthy enough.

Students aren’t eating healthily because they prefer to eat more unhealthy choices than healthy.

When asking classmates what I should eat from the cafeteria, the most common answer was ranging from pizza to brownies to french fries. Many of the students said that they bring the main part of their lunch from home and buy the unhealthier options from the school because they don’t have these options at home.

Student council secretary Olivia Murchie shared why she prefers the unhealthier options.

“I believe that vegetables are more trustworthy and fresh at home,” said Murchie.

The students purchasing unhealthy options do not go unnoticed. Walking into the cafeteria to observe, the lines between the healthy and the not healthy section were noticeably different.  

Manager Val Oleson stands at the cafeteria everyday and sees what the students are buying.

“Our most popular sale is definitely the pizza and the bosco sticks,” Oleson said.

If students are provided with unhealthy options, then that is what they will eat.

The lunch options provided at BHS over the years have either been too healthy or not healthy enough.

In 2015, Batavia’s school board decided to leave the National School Lunch program and switch to Quest. These lunch programs’ goals are to get as much profits as they can but a large requirement is to make these options healthy.

Cathy Dremel, Board of Education President explains the main reason for switching lunch programs.  

“Reportedly this was because the program had so many restrictions that many students found the food to be unpalatable and were no longer choosing to purchase lunch at school.  For example, hummus and avocado were two items that were deemed to have too much fat to let us offer them under the National School lunch program, but both are excellent sources of heart-healthy fats and restricting them is ridiculous in my opinion,” Dremel said.

Now with this new Quest program, students have the ability to eat however unhealthy they please. Adding avocado and hummus back into the meals is one thing, but adding 470.45 calories worth of bosco sticks is another. With this new program, it is clear that they are not persuading students to choose healthier options, where the last program was too strict. Something that our school district could do is give options for students that are healthy but students will still want to buy them. Our school has added a coffee bar that gives kids a caffeine boost when needed. It also has healthy snacks that can be purchased. Ordering from the coffee bar is healthier than ordering from the pizza bar.

Not all people believe that our school lunches are a lost cause.

Dremel has stopped into our cafeteria many times to try the lunches.

“I have had the chance to eat lunch at BHS twice since we made the change,” Dremel said.  “Every year the Board visits our various schools early in the school year, and the last two times I was able to attend, the Board had lunch at BHS and we had the opportunity to order lunch from one of the stations.  I had a Chipotle-like option both times and was very pleased with my meal.”

From Dremel’s point of view, the cafeteria definitely has the healthy options, but unfortunately, the choice is in the students’ hands. Oleson sees first hand the lunch choices students are making.

“Although the healthy options are there, students are seeing the unhealthy options and eating what they prefer,” Oleson said.

Choosing to eat healthily is something only the student can do. Taking unnecessary actions to get students to eat healthily is unnecessary and doesn’t work.

“The Board strongly supports healthy food options, but getting students to actually eat the healthy food options is the battle that all of us face in public, and in our homes,” Dremel said.

All people want students to eat healthy, but making the students buy the healthy options is a choice.

Overall, BHS lunches have tried to change their course of meal to make students eat healthier. Unfortunately, students have found a way to go around it. Healthy lunches at our school are a lost cause because students overall prefer unhealthier options and the lunch programs tried have either been too healthy or not healthy enough.

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