Since 2010, there’s been a rumbling going on in school lunch cafeterias. It’s the sound of students — especially high school athletes — grumbling over smaller portions thanks to Michelle Obama’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
My son, a tall, lanky Grantsville High School sophomore who does cross country and soccer, typically ate school lunches at school. Still hungry, he’d buy a mini-loaf from the a la carte afterwards.
Now it looks like the Tooele County School District will be doing away with the a la carte (a selection of snacks like cinnamon rolls, bread sticks, and drinks that students can pay for outside of school lunch) for a $100,000 savings. (“District budget closer to mandate,” July 23). The district will also increase school lunch by five cents for another $100,000 savings.
My son will pay five more cents per meal and go even hungrier. Is this supposed to make sense?
Now, I get that we can be healthier as a nation. That fruits and vegetables are good for you. In fact, I’ve seen for myself how exciting it is for kids to try new fruits and vegetables. But do we really expect an active student to be satisfied with the same small, main dish portion as a couch potato?
Every parent with a hungry student could pack a home lunch. But the school district’s food services would go out of business, and they wouldn’t want that. Besides, that’s just running away from the issue.
Luckily, the district’s child nutrition director, Elva Roberts, a 30-year school lunch veteran, is a diplomatic and pleasant lady. I called her after I read the news and explained my concerns. I asked why they’re doing away with the a la carte, and she said between the shrinking federal calorie ceilings and losing money on it, it just makes sense.
She suggested that my son take more from the salad bar, ask for or buy an extra roll at the lunch line, and that we as a family suggest items for the menu.
My son said he takes a huge portion of salad already (which doesn’t really stick in the ribs), the fruit is frequently too under ripe to eat, tries to ask for extra rolls but is told there aren’t enough for seconds, and simply wishes for bigger portions of the main course.
Roberts also suggested that we contact our senators and congressmen.
If the smaller portions and one-size-feeds-all approach doesn’t make sense, neither does the fact that my child’s school lunch in Grantsville is controlled by someone in DC in exchange for federal subsidies. But if it takes lobbying our representatives to make school lunch more satisfying, then we have to act.
This past April, two congressmen sponsored H.R. 1503, No Hungry Kids Act, which takes away the calorie caps and gives school lunch programs the flexibility to tailor their portions to their students needs.
If you want our district to tailor school lunch to the needs of our students, please send an email in support of HR 1503 to Congressman Chris Stewart at www.stewart.house.gov or call 1-801-364-5550.
Meanwhile, I hope the district will consistently give students the option of buying more rolls at the lunch line now that they’re eliminating a la carte.
Jewel Punzalan Allen is a memoir writing coach and an award-winning journalist who lives in Grantsville. Visit her website at www.TreasuredStories.net.