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Last week, as countless Americans around the country celebrated School Lunch Hero Day, which honors school lunchroom staff, parents and students were busy complaining furiously about the frequently inedible food those heroes serve our nation's public school students. Unlike School Lunch Hero Day, which just turned 10, such complaints about government-provided school lunches are an annual tradition that's been going on for generations.
In Baltimore, for example, parents are complaining about the foods served to kids throughout the county. "They said their children's milk has had chunks in it," Fox Baltimore reported last week. "Some of the food has been moldy, they said." The report also notes that "what looks like a lump of brown meat on white bread" in one photo—an extremely charitable description—is "actually a peanut butter and jelly sandwich."
School lunch horror stories such as these are ubiquitous. In Springfield, Massachusetts, families are complaining about moldy food and "pizzas with discoloration" that one school served to kids. Students and parents in Michigan complained earlier this year about "nasty" school-lunch food. In North Carolina, a debate team launched a fight against the "abhorrent provisions" their school serves. Just outside St. Louis, Missouri, a county health department is investigating complaints about food served by a local public high school, including student illnesses, roaches, mice, and moldy and spoiled food. It is at least the fifth time this school year the health department has investigated the school's food service.
A University of Chicago researcher studying school food, Karlyn Gorski, explained this week that she found "still-frozen vegetables and nibbled-on rolls" in the meals she's purchased at one Chicago public school. Last year, Buzzfeed posted photos of some particularly gross school lunches, including this little bit of sadness. Parental complaints that some of this food resembles that served to prisoners doesn't miss the mark.
While school lunchroom staff shouldn't be blamed for the quality of the food they serve—they neither select nor buy the food—the real school lunch heroes, in my opinion, are the parents and kids speaking out against the wasteful National School Lunch Program and the abysmal food it provides to many of our nation's children. Under that decades-old program, schools generally receive around $3 per meal served. Just $1 of that $3 goes towards food. The rest—$2, or twice as much as schools spend on food—goes to overhead and other costs.
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