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School Lunch Food is Not Fresh, Students Say

Many would like to see a return to larger portions and cheaper prices.

Students have noticed an increase in healthier foods offered for school lunches, but, for many, that’s not necessarily enough to make them eat healthier.

Bridgewater-Raritan business administrator Peter Starrs said the district participates in a child nutrition program that funds meals at the schools, and the USDA has implemented new food regulations.

This is all being done through the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was put in place to combat obesity. School districts that do not comply are levied hefty fines.

But that’s not enough to satisfy students at Bridgewater-Raritan High School.

“On the upside, there are more healthy sides like beans and salads that come with meals,” said senior Amulya Yalamanchili. “On the downside, portions are significantly reduced while prices have increased. The emphasis on healthier food is clear, but it does not seem like the changes are encouraging students to eat healthier.”

Because next to those offerings of healthier choices, Yalamanchili said, are still the choices to purchase chips, cookies and ice cream. And with smaller portions and higher prices available to high school students, she said, it just makes sense to go with the junk sometimes.

“It seems clear that students would turn to the cheaper and less healthy junk food options,” she said. “The fresh food vending machine in the cafeteria is rarely used because, quite frankly, the fruit does not taste fresh at all, and as a result, is not usually stocked.”

Many students agree that the quality is just not there anymore.

“Everything is smaller, more expensive and generally not as good,” said senior Kirby Gong.

And junior Krishna Chamarti said she finds the food to be very inconsistent.

“The type of fries and quality of them changes everyday,” she said. “The new cookies are awful, the quality and quantity of everything used to be more.”

Senior Andrew Trinker agreed.

“The food is good one day and bad the next,” he said. “I think the freshness issue and new choices would be how I would change cafeteria lunches.”

And junior Jake Marshall said he finds the lettuce on sandwiches to be brown, not green like it should be.

With the changes being made, Yalamanchili said, she believes the key is to provide healthier ingredients in the food, while maintaining reasonable portions so students actually feel full after they have eaten.

“Recently, it became known that school board members claimed that students should buy more food if they felt hungry, but the fact is that the food portions are not adequate for the average students,” she said. “Those complaining are not simply those with bigger appetites.”

And one of the biggest complaints, Yalamanchili said, is the quality of the food itself.

“One of the biggest taste complaints seems to be the lack of taste of the new pizza offered,” she said.

Several students agreed that the quality has gone downhill.

“[The pizza] is pretty much the only thing I liked to eat last year, but now it’s like cheese with bad sauce on cardboard,” said senior Akhil Golla.

“My biggest complaint is to make the food fresher from lunch period to lunch period,” Trinker added. “People hate getting soggy food, and it is definitely not fair for the seventh period lunch people.”

And students are mixed on whether more people are bringing their lunches now, saying that the food is still too expensive, but they don’t see too much of a change.

“It’s way too expensive now, but I’m still buying,” said senior Stephanie Huang. “And I don’t think more people are bringing lunch because they don’t pay for it themselves.”

For many of the students, they just want to either get back to the way lunches used to be, or find a way to provide fresher food so it looks more enticing.

“Improve the taste and make serving sizes bigger so that kids are eating the healthy lunch and feeling full, and not supplementing it with fries, cookies and chips,” said senior Megan DiMichele.

“I think it is a pointless [change],” Marshall added. “Teenagers are going to eat unhealthy and they have to accept that.”

Bridgewater Parent October 19, 2012 at 01:18 AM
This is the new standard for school lunches as unveiled by first lady Michelle Obama earlier this year. It sounds like you kids don't like the taste of it! For those of you old enough to vote, ( and some of you are!), I strongly suggest you vote for Mitt Romney.
X October 19, 2012 at 04:02 AM
Oh yes, because the key factor that'll influence my vote is cafeteria food. - Bridgewater Student
Bridgewater Parent October 19, 2012 at 11:24 AM
A typical remark coming from one with tunnel vision, let’s take the blinders off and look at the bigger picture… BRRSD cafeteria food is one example of the socialized idealism of the liberal party. Read the article again, kids are paying more and getting less for a poorer quality product. Now extrapolate this socialistic nonsense to other areas of your life and you will have big brother mandating what you think and how you behave as you pay more and get less, and if you don’t follow along you will pay a big fine. Yup, your healthcare is next. If you think the cafeteria food tastes bad, you’ll be sick of socialized medicine in no time!
BR Parent October 19, 2012 at 12:11 PM
BOE needs to take care of this. Students are saying food is worse, costs more. I dont think you need a committee or a study... just fix it.
Mike October 19, 2012 at 01:05 PM
Mitt Rmoney will channel Bill Cosby and deliver delicious meals to students at school. Riding on his gold-plated, diamond-encrusted unicorn. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRmN4KnfPxQ
Mike October 19, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Wow, kids don't like healthy food. Really? Good eating habits start at home, but schools should make best efforts to make it more palatable. Parents (and kids over 12 or so) could always pack a lunch.
Stampit615 October 19, 2012 at 02:45 PM
What I don't understand is why prices increased if the school is receiving a subsidy and portion sizes have decreased. Wouldn't serving less food cost less? Also, I sypmathize with the students - the food, no matter if is healthy or not, if it is not good quality, noone will want to eat it. I've seen pictures of the food being served - yuck!
Bridgewater Parent October 19, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Just fix it. How? Quoted from the article: "This is all being done through the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was put in place to combat obesity. School districts that do not comply are levied hefty fines." We fix it by getting rid of socialed government mandated mindset. Vote for Romney!
Mary Clare October 19, 2012 at 03:19 PM
I used to get so mad watching documentaries on poor overweight people eating a bag of potato chips. Then I went to the market and paid attention to how much fruits and vegetables cost. I get it now. Cheaper to buy junk food. And yes STAMPIT615, it should cost less if the portion is smaller and subsidized. Good point. Would anyone at the school like to address this?
Evan Lerner October 19, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Mary Clare, you are correct. The fruit and vegetable components of the meal cost more than the bread and protein components. According to the district's food service supplier, any savings achieved as a result of smaller portions of bread and protein were more than offset by increases in costs for the other components of the meal (fruit, vegetables, and milk). As a result, the price of lunch went up.
Stampit615 October 19, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Thank you for responding Mr. Lerner. I now understand that the fresh (?) produce may cost more than bread and protein. However, isn't that what the subsidy should be used for? Where does the subsidy money go if not to offse the increased cost of produce? Also, perhaps the district should search for a vendor that can provide produce that is in good condition (unbruised apples, fresh vegetables/lettuce, etc.) rather than accepting poor quality. It appears that there is a money drain if the food is costing more and noone is eating it. It all ends up in the garbage. Protein is stlil an important part of any diet. Why is that reduced?
Mike October 19, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Maschio's is the best food vendor I've seen among the five districts I'm familiar with. Schools are mandated, I believe, to price lunches closer to their true cost. We have to get the facts before throwing darts at the BoE, etc.
Evan Lerner October 19, 2012 at 06:23 PM
The regulations limit the amount of protein that can be served as part of a standard lunch. More here: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2012/01/0023.xml The regulations implementing this program are quite new. We're working closely with our food provider to provide students with the best product at the best cost. I invite you to attend a board of education meeting or contact our business administrator's office with specific questions as others are better prepared to respond than I to most questions. Our next board meeting is this Monday at the JFK school in Raritan at 8 pm. Note this is a special location; meetings are normally held in the Wade Administration Building.
Mike October 19, 2012 at 10:21 PM
"School food sucks" is news? :^)
Mike October 19, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Stop in and try it. The wraps are wonderful. Or you could eat like the kids: a mountain of french fries smothered with ketchup and mayo, washed down with a Snapple®.
Mike October 19, 2012 at 10:22 PM
"Vote for Rmoney and all of your dreams will come true..."
Mike October 19, 2012 at 10:29 PM
When districts ran food services, people complained. Now that it's outsourced, people complain. BoE: you are not overpaid. :^)
X October 20, 2012 at 06:11 PM
So what you're saying is, if Romney wins, our cafeteria food will be lowered in price, the quality will go up, healthcare will be cheaper and better, college will cost less, world peace will be achieved, and America will enter a Golden Age? Your argument is based entirely on a slippery slope. Perhaps you're the one who needs to take the blinders off.
Barry October 24, 2012 at 03:24 AM
less food for more money = rip off. The Federal Government needs to stay out of our daily lives and allow the local governments take care of these types of issues. My son tells me that the lettuce and tomatoes are being tossed in the garbage. Wasteful spending if you ask me. Since we have to supplement his lunch now, we may as well replace the school lunch all together. Which is what we'll probably start doing. I think the protest the kids up in Parsippany Hills did - was dead on.

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