School lunches exceed standards


The students chatter and bustle in line, lunch ladies smile and tummies growl. The cash register dings as student by student leaves looking down at their plate topped with a meal they are eager to indulge in, or perhaps something they will settle for because, well, food is food when you are at school for six and a half hours.

“The best part about the school lunch program I think is we can offer so many choices. The food is good, it’s wholesome, and the value, it’s very good value. You know for two dollars and seventy cents you can’t go anywhere and get the complete meal that we offer for that price,”  Sid Taylor, Director of Child Nutrition for the school district said.

Some students would argue there is no ‘best part’ about buying lunch from the school.  Senior Haley Williams said she won’t be tasting another school lunch after a food poisoning experience she believes came from a turkey sub sandwich her freshman year.

“We think it was the mayonnaise, that the mayonnaise had been sitting out too long that day. So I’ve lost my faith in school lunches,” Williams said.

Listening to William’s story, it is easy to understand why school lunches have earned a bad reputation. Senior Blaze Tyas, however, buys lunch every day because of the convenience of not needing to prepare a meal at home as well as the reasonable price. He sticks with the chicken sandwich every time because “you can see it just comin’ out of the oven and everything.”

Much of the food does come straight from the oven. Food is not pre-prepared but made fresh at each school. Fruits and vegetables are delivered by Sisco three times a week and other main foods are brought twice a week.

“We want to offer a wide variety of fresh as possible food that students like, but also be within the guidelines of what the government puts out for nutrition and health,” Taylor said.

Under the National School Lunch Program, schools must meet set requirements for calories, fat and sodium contained in school provided meals. The goal then, is to “cut the fat without compromising the flavor” whenever possible, Taylor said.

English teacher Kimberly Marinelli buys lunch occasionally and though she admits there could be improvement, she speaks highly of the service in the cafeteria and the value of the meals.

“What I would like, is that just, that completely organic, healthy sort of cafeteria but that just is never going to happen and I don’t think half the teenagers would eat if there wasn’t options like pizza or what not. But I think that if you want to eat healthy there are options for you,” Marinelli said.

As someone who is cautious about meat and prefers free-range poultry, Marinelli has not tried a huge variety of the cafeteria selections. However, she appreciates their efforts to accommodate individual needs and tastes and experiment with new options like Mexican foods.

“I’ve never had anything bad but I also only stick to what I know. I’ve had salads, sandwiches and the enchiritos and that’s all I’ve ever eaten there. So I haven’t really ventured out,” Marinelli said.

Jennifer Moberg has been head cook at the school for three years. As someone with Celiac disease, she understands the importance of accommodating particular needs. The school now offers gluten free and vegetarian options every day. Megson sees the school’s lunch service as exceptional compared to others she has witnessed.

“I like what we do here, I think it’s better. I’ve seen other school districts and I’ve seen what they’re offering and I really don’t think the kids know how lucky they are. I had a student come from [Central Kitsap] and she was blown away by the amount of food and the selections that they offer here as opposed to her high school,” Megson said.

  According to a U.S Department of Agriculture Survey, twenty percent of the nation’s schools are not even meeting government health standards set out for lunches. Though many would agree there is room for improvement, the school’s lunch program is exceeding the expectations of the government, consistently fulfilling requirements faster than one can say enchirito.