Should the cafeteria serve healthier lunches?

This is a picture of popular lunch selections in the cafeteria right now. This includes a selection of wrapped burgers, sandwiches, wraps, chicken nuggets and french fries.

Photo Credit: Michael Taromina

This is a picture of popular lunch selections in the cafeteria right now. This includes a selection of wrapped burgers, sandwiches, wraps, chicken nuggets and french fries.

by Michael Taromina, Staff Writer

A popular question that has been going around the school for the past couple years is whether the cafeteria should serve healthier lunches. We all know that being healthy leads to a better, longer and more active life. But in the school cafeteria, the word healthy doesn’t really come to mind.

Lunch is one of the best times in the day for most students and the ability to pick whatever they want from the selection is nice. However, students tend to forget that even though they can pick whatever they want, they should still pick healthy foods. It’s challenging though for some people to pick healthy foods for two reasons. One reason is because kids of this school are surrounded by unhealthy food that tastes very good. Additionally, there is a lack of healthy food options in the cafeteria.  

Although Pomptonian makes an effort to include healthy options on its daily menu, these choices aren’t as popular as the unhealthy options. The selection of nutritious foods, which includes fruits, vegetables, sandwiches, wraps, and even flavored and unflavored water, are not purchased by students on a regular basis. This is probably because there are way more unlean options like cookies, chips, pizza, and most sandwiches and drinks like Diet Coke and iced tea. Those unhealthy options often taste better than vegetables and fruits and many students of this school don’t factor in the amount of calories and grams of fats when deciding what to eat.

Despite our contract with Pomptonian, this doesn’t have to be how Glen Rock does things. In the South Orange-Maplewood School District, there are efforts being made to change the way school lunch is provided for their students. Like our district, the South Orange-Maplewood School Districts is serviced by Pomptonian; however, they have instituted rules on what they serve to students. They suspect that in the elementary schools, the environment in which the kids sit and eat in factors in to what they choose to eat.

Pat Johnson, the South Orange-Maplewood School District Food Service director, made efforts to improve school lunch in her district. They soon realized it was not enough to hand out apples to her elementary schoolers and consider the day a nutritional success.

“The garbage would be filled with apples,” says Johnson, acknowledging that even if students were given healthy choices, they would likely still refuse to eat them.

After the South Orange-Maplewood School district saw a lot of healthy food being tossed aside they decided to step it up a notch. They now serve healthy options on a daily basis. The more the school offered fruits and vegetables, the more the students accepted, she says. Now the district offers unwrapped vegetables like carrots, celery, cucumbers, and broccoli on a daily basis.  

In addition, the district has limited the amount and type of snack foods available, cutting out those delicious baked cookies altogether. Instead, the district only offers 100-calorie packs and baked chips.

“They’ll pick up a celery stick and run off and be with their friends,” Johnson says, “All they see are fruits and vegetables every single day.”

Glen Rock could definitely learn something from the South Orange-Maplewood School District on how to serve healthy lunches to students.

According to the Pomptonian website, “All snacks offered are in compliance with the District’s Wellness Policy and limit total fat to 8 grams or less and 2 grams or lower of saturated fat. Water, pure fruit juice and low-fat, hormone-free milk is always available. Students choose from a selection of baked snacks, 100% pure fruit juice slushies, yogurt, veggie sticks with dip, fresh fruit, and more.”

This may be true in some schools but not ours. Our school doesn’t have a selection of just baked chips like the South Orange-Maplewood School district has. We don’t have 100 percent pure fruit juice slushies or yogurt or veggie sticks with dip or fresh fruits. The closest thing we have to healthy food is a salad bar.

I’m not saying that this school needs to be completely healthy, but a little goes a long way. Maybe instead of diet coke and iced teas we put flavored or fruit juices. Those satisfy cravings without a lot of calories. Also, we could put low fat or baked snacks that include yogurt or baked chips, instead of high fat or non-baked snacks like chips and cookies. After all, if students stop buying so many cookies, everyone’s going to save a lot of dough.