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Free For All Fixing School Food In America

1508 words - 7 pages

The Public school system is responsible for thousands of meals a year. Many students eat two meals a day within the same walls 180 days out of the year. That’s over 350 meals for the 55 million students. The term ‘cafeteria food’ as a rightfully given negative connotation, as present day food is drastically different than what is being fed to these students. In the book Free for all: Fixing School Food in America, author Janet Poppendieck takes on this negative implication and attempts to fix it. Hunter College sociologist, Poppendieck, gives us the best reasons yet for unconditional school food reform. Throughout her book she tackles issues including: the price of the meals and the ...view middle of the document...

These students are paying on average two dollars and fifty cents while getting about forty cents in subsidies. The second are those students who are paying forty-seven cents for their meals, meaning most of the cost is covered by the government. And the last group of students is those who are on the free lunch program, these students are considered the poorest and the government subsidize everything.
Poppendieck went inside a lunchroom to observe how the cafeteria ladies figure this out. Most of the workers know the students well enough that they know which if these categories the student falls into. Those that they don’t know can easily be looked up by typing their identification number into a computer. This process takes time, and students, in Poppendeick’s opinion, do not go through this at times because of the fear of other people finding out their financial situation.
This sounds like a fair way to provide lunch for everyone. Unfortunately however, this system is not working as well as one would imagine. The government is paying out upwards of $11 million to subsidize these lunches and the students are not eating what is healthy by most standards. Because the government has such a pull in the school lunches they end up with a lot of say in the matter causing the food to be worse off and the children to be as well. Most students end up opting out of the program which is being paid for by the government and decide to buy things from the a la carte line. This line has chips, soda, and many other unhealthy snacks and lunches sold at an influx in price so that the school can cover its costs as well as paying the workers.
Poppendieck admits that prior to writing this book she knew little about the cafeteria system and what all went into the food process. She decided to go into a school system, which she names Any Town School, for one week as a ‘cafeteria lady’ to gain as much insight as possible. Her results only furthered her arguments. She spoke to the director of food service and asked about the meals being offered and he said “how your family eats is how your family eats, if you don’t eat that way at home, you’re not going to eat that way at school no matter how much we do….and what they are eating at home is snack food and fast food” (Poppendieck pg 38). All of the students who are receiving free or reduced lunch are doing so because of the family income.
These particular students have parents who are bringing home the cheapest meal possible to feed their kids simply because payday might just be their welfare check. These students are eating McDonalds for their meals at home they will not eat a salad at school. The director explained to Poppendieck that they had one day in which they made salad with grilled chicken and a beef stew made from all fresh ingredients. That was the most money the school had ever made at the a la carte line because...

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