Cafeteria serves unfulfilling food

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The trash is always full to the brim with food. Lots of food is wasted every single day in the School District of Clayton. It’s lunchtime.

Junior Charlie Beard order french fries in the commons during 4th hour. The food served has changed, but still has room for improvment. (Caroline Stamp)

Junior Charlie Beard order french fries in the commons during 4th hour. The food served has changed, but still has room for improvment. (Caroline Stamp)

Many student drivers at CHS choose to go off campus with friends for lunch. Some of the students who stay in school during lunch bring prepared meals from home, purchase a sandwich at Subway or buy food from the cafeteria.

Eleven years ago I was eating my homemade lunch at Mrs. Olson’s second grade table in the Meramec Elementary School cafeteria. Starting in kindergarten, rumors spread about the school lunches. My friends told me the hotdogs would bounce on the cafeteria tile floor and the pizza was similar to cardboard.

Although all of these comments were exaggerations, the remarks along with the overwhelming smell and peculiar appearance of the food steered me away from eating school lunches. Now I’m a senior in high school and I’m not sure the amount of food thrown out has decreased.

A few times a year I’ll eat lunch with my sister, a fourth grader at Meramec Elementary School. Everyday during lunch about half the children in the class choose to purchase food from the cafeteria. A few weeks ago, the child sitting next to me at my sister’s table purchased a school lunch. This child took one bite of a hamburger, but devoured the cookie on the cafeteria tray. The rest of the meal went in the trash.

Just like the child sitting next to me at Meramec, many kids at the middle school and high school avoid eating the school lunches. Despite recent attempts to improve the nutritional selection to combat childhood obesity and other diseases linked to poor nutrition, the cafeterias continue to sell students fatty pizza, salty snacks and high caloric meals.

Although none of the Clayton cafeterias sell soda, CHS still has soda vending machines. Even the juice options sold in the cafeteria are almost as unhealthy as soda. If the meals were healthier and more appealing, high school students might avoid going out to lunch or going to Subway.

Despite the school district’s best efforts to improve the food in the district, they don’t seem to be very successful. The food sold is still extremely unhealthy, looks unappealing and many students continue to go out to lunch.

Although Clayton is ranked one of the top school districts in the state for academic achievements, we serve unhealthy meals to students. On some levels the School District of Clayton compares itself with private schools in the St. Louis area like Forsyth. Schools like Forsyth have adopted the “Farm to School” lunch program.

This lunch program connects schools and local farms. Along with supporting local farmers, this program improves school nutrition. There are over 2,065 school districts involved in this program across the country. Why can’t Clayton be involved in one of these programs?

By making the food healthier, we can improve student health and help reduce childhood obesity. We need to conduct a student survey based on the food the schools serve in the cafeteria.

Since students purchase the food in the cafeteria, they should play a larger role in helping the district change the menu. Or better yet, students should be involved in growing the food that they will consume. The science curriculum in all grades at Clayton schools could include the development of a garden, which might encourage students to eat healthier.

Since my time in kindergarten, the lunch items served in the Clayton schools have become slightly healthier, but still need lots of improving.  The district at one time managed the food service provided to all students and even had a kitchen at each school.

Presently the food service has been out sourced and there is a central kitchen all managed by Chartwells. Chartwells, as any for profit company wants to maximize profits while maintaining its contract with our district.

Chartwells and the School District of Clayton need to continue working together to improve the cafeteria food. The district may need to increase any subsidy for the food service. Potential improvements to the meal system can create a win-win situation so both Chartwells and the district increase the revenue and improve the health of students.

While the district should be proud of our academic achievements, they need to focus more on student health and the weaknesses of the lunch program. With the help of the student body, the administration needs to consider making substantial changes. Lunchtime isn’t over yet.

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