School lunches spark immature conversations

♦ Staff Editorial ♦

The lunch line winds down in the small cafe, and students try to get a glimpse of today’s special. They grumble at what they find.

It’s small. It’s tasteless. But it’s all that’s offered.

Frustrated students across the nation have taken to social media to express their disatisfication. The Twitter tag, #ThanksMichelleObama, is November’s latest trend. Snarky tweets accompanied by photos of mysterious mush have drawn attention to the poor execution of noble intentions.

This year, Naperville North adopted Michelle Obama’s “Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.” The policy attempts to limit caloric intake, ensure proper portion size and guarantee a higher standard of nutrition. However, these healthy initiatives have come with a price.

Let’s face it: healthy fruits and vegetables are expensive. Although the act reimburses schools six cents for every meal sold that meets the new standards, it doesn’t seem to be enough. Students still “thank” Michelle Obama for the quality of their meals. While school lunches have never been particularly appetizing, there is no denying that students across the nation have acknowledged a rather marked shift in light of the new policy. And it’s only natural to place blame on the one in charge.

In many ways, it seems impractical to hope that a teenager will change his or her eating habits. Implementing healthy meal options is more likely to shape an elementary student’s diet. At that level, children are still developing their eating habits. But with especially unappetizing lunch options, high school students are unlikely to reverse their habits. They’re more likely to meet these unrealistic expectations with opposition.

But perhaps, as high school students, we must know our place. While the barrage of tweets in recent weeks has raised awareness for the issue, there is an understandable learning curve that comes with this new territory. The act requires cooperation from a variety of people: from students to school food authorities and to the government itself. It’s a process that will take time to perfect.

Students have valid reasons to be upset. In many ways, the food is smaller and less flavorful than in years past. Otis Spunkmeyer cookies are becoming a distant memory. Chocolate bars and soda are now rare and valuable commodities within the halls of NNHS. However, snarky tweets won’t change school menus. The “Healthy Hunger-Free Act” was passed with students’ best interests in mind; Michelle Obama could have hardly foreseen the delectable delights served in lunch lines today. She’s simply a scapegoat for our frustrations.

Students can continue tweeting, or they can decide to foster productive conversations. Petitions, letters and phone calls to local politicians could jumpstart reform. If students truly cannot stand school lunches, they have a responsibility to help forge an acceptable solution.