School Lunch Boycotts in Connecticut, D.C. Highlight Bad School Nutrition
Anyone who went to public school (and probably a decent chunk of the children who went to private school, as well) remember school lunch time. You file into the cafeteria, grab one of the brightly colored plastic trays, and then take whatever they give you, with maybe a scant handful of options along the way. Of course, some students bring lunch, and others have dietary concerns–in middle school I ordered a peanut butter and jelly sandwich approximately 75 percent of the time–but that was of course before peanut butter was banned from many cafeterias. But for the vast majority of the many, many students who order lunch each day there is very little choice. In addition, in many places there are very specific rules governing students during lunchtime. An overall unhappiness with their school-provided nutrition is why students at Farmington High School in Farmington, Connecticut, started boycotting school lunches.
Students at Farmington High in particular have a problem with Chartwells, the food provider for the school. They allege that the food is disgusting–according to a Washington Post article:
Since Chartwells replaced the district’s in-house meal program in 2012, according to the students, it has meant an increasingly unpalatable menu, with food that sometimes features mold, human hair, dangerously undercooked meats, insects and portion sizes fit for a small, starving child.
In addition, students have butt up against policies by the school involving the ability of students to charge food. So, they boycotted the lunches this week. The boycott has apparently been ended, and dialogue has opened up between the students, the school, and Chartwells. Principle William Silva stated:
We had some of the boycott organizers, so to speak, and other student leaders who we had reached out to make sure we were hearing all student voices. Everyone contributed, it was very positive, very respectful and we talked about some of the things we’re immediately going to do.
This nation has a big problem when it comes to school lunches, especially because so many of them are served to students who do not have any other choice when it comes to their nutrition. In fiscal year 2013 alone, the government provided free or reduced-price meals to nearly 31 million students–totaling about 5 billion lunches. That’s an essential source of nutrition for students whose families don’t necessarily have the resources to pay for healthy nutrition outside of school, and its exactly those kind of students whom the aid programs are designed to help. In addition, while it’s easy to make the argument that students who have the means but do not want to buy lunch can just bring it from home, it’s not really a fair one. Even students who could make lunches at home might not have the time, the ability, or the support, or they have to contend with long bus rides that mean that they don’t have access to proper refrigeration.
The students of Farmington High School were right to boycott the fact that they were not being provided adequate nutrition. And it’s not just that particularly school–Everett High School in D.C. is also undertaking a boycott for pretty much the same reasons. Meghan Hellrood is a senior at the school and is organizing the boycott, complaining that the lunches aren’t filling enough. While these are just a few isolated incidents, I’d love to see students nationally stand up for themselves and make sure that make their voices heard about bad school nutrition.