The School Cafeteria Dilemma

Every morning, I walk begrudgingly into school with my eyes half open and my mind half gone. With class at 8:30AM every weekday, there are plenty of students who prefer sleep and end up missing breakfast. Thankfully, there is the wonderful school cafeteria to provide nutrition in the mornings. It provides something for people to munch on during first block or something to give a boost of energy so we can focus. Unfortunately, as I’m walking in through the front doors, I am hit with a waft of frozen breakfast sandwiches and smiley-faced fries. Should this be what youth are fed every morning?

Week after week, giant trucks filled with boxes of frozen and canned foods enter the school and week after week, they are unpacked and defrosted or opened and reheated. All baked goods consist of white flour and what seems like pounds and pounds of sugar; some even topped with icing. The freezers are filled with ice cream bars and the fridge is stocked with plastic boxes of salads with flimsy romaine leaves and over-processed dressing. On the lowest shelf, there will occasionally sit a lonely basket of apples. Needless to say, not very many students purchase the apples.

In my opinion, the Guidelines for Food and Beverage Sales in BC Schools are not enforced as strictly as they should be. Under these guidelines’ “checkmark” system, products that fall in the categories “Choose Least” or “Not Recommended” should no longer be served to students. This is applied in our vending machines, but when I looked up the nutritional information of the school’s catering company, many of the items do not align with the guidelines. For example, a sausage breakfast wrap clocks in at 18.7 grams of fat, making it a part of the “Choose Least” category. Should they be sold at the school cafeteria where the idea is to promote healthy living? What makes this even more ridiculous is that the wrap does not even taste good. But that’s another story.

There are so many opportunities for school cafeterias to change from “catering” that serves frozen food to fresh food, made daily, with real produce. I know of many schools that have cooking programs, and create monthly menus, where student cooks serve their peers. More and more schools are also beginning to grow their own school gardens, and using those plants in their lunches. Farm to School programs, which support local farmers and encourage students to purchase local, fresh produce are another great option that I suggest you all to consider.

After all, schools are already equipped with fully functioning kitchens. Why waste their potential on defrosting and reheating? If you are currently enrolled in a BC school that seems to have cafeteria food that is not up to par, I recommend that you look up the nutritional information of the caterer and compare it to the Guidelines for Food and Beverage Sales. You might be in for a real shock.

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