TO THE EDITOR: Make school lunches unhealthy

Dear The Lowell,

In elementary school, we once had such dining options as canned fruit juices and chicken tenders. Today, these same options would be absolutely banned from school cafeterias, with the school district having a very pretentious notion that cutting these choices would cure obesity and diet-related diseases. It is very ineffective, as many Lowell students would much rather grab a snack at an on-campus vending machine or a fast-food meal from the local malls.

Back in April 2015, the Board of Education passed a new “Wellness Policy,” in which it promised to “explore ways to phase out chocolate milk.” When the school district did phase out chocolate milk during the 2017-2018 school year, I was outraged. Each carton of chocolate milk that the district had served contained less than only two teaspoons of sugar, yet they removed it from the menu. The SFUSD Student Nutrition Services claim that many students will convert to white milk “without complaint,” but ever since chocolate milk disappeared from my school cafeterias, I have yet to even touch a carton of white milk, let alone drink it.

Photo courtesy of Shyla Duong
Chicken pot stickers and rice, pineapple chunks and milk are part of a student’s lunch.

The new “healthier” school lunches have driven away students from the cafeterias to the malls near campus, as well as on-campus vending machines, which renders the new and “healthier” school lunch ineffective in promoting the district’s agenda of good eating habits and improved overall physical wellness. Many students can walk off campus to Lakeshore Plaza or Stonestown with ease at any given time and acquire a meal that is far more unhealthy than any school lunch could ever dream of being. On the same campus of this school, whose district emphasizes healthier school lunches, one can find quite a few vending machines; almost all of them contain an assortment of chips and fruit snack candies; a certain vending machine even contains various types of “diet” sodas and other sweetened beverages. Now how is this healthy eating?

Even the fruit options that our school district kindly provides, which are supposedly “healthy,” are frequently laden with preservatives. I’ve seen the cafeteria workers empty out diced pineapple, melon and watermelon chunks from a can. And the fruit cups that can be found in the cafeteria several times a week nowadays contain a good amount of preservative syrups, which are not exactly healthy. The overreaction of “healthifying” our school lunches is not effective: students are driven away from the cafeteria to alternative sources of unhealthy foods, and the options provided by the district aren’t necessarily the healthiest choices either. Instead of following rigid guidelines that result in disgusting meals that satisfy no one, perhaps the district should loosen these nutritional guidelines and allow for slightly more flavorful options as well as more caloric content that satisfies the hunger of us hardworking students. In other words, making school lunches just “slightly unhealthier” and more filling would provide a better way of encouraging kids to eating the school lunches, leading to better eating habits and improved overall physical wellness.

Henry Lei,

Lowell Class of 2019