School lunches are notoriously bad. Soggy half-frozen pizza squares, chopped fruit swimming in syrup, "mystery meat..." I thought we'd seen it all. But I would have thought school lunches had gotten better as the years have passed. We continue to know more about our nutrition needs. It seems like it should be easier to provide healthy food for large groups than it was in the past. And schools are aware of their responsibility to provide students with wholesome meals.
Right? Wrong. High school student Maryn Holler, who attends Apollo High School in Saint Cloud, Minnesota, recently posted a photo of the lunch she paid for at school, and it's turning heads.
The lunch consists of a hot dog bun with some melted cheese on it, a container of marinara sauce, and a few baby carrots. And that's it. There's not even a hot dog in the hot dog bun. Barely any protein. Minimal nutritious value. Even by school lunch standards, this is sad.
Maryn's Facebook post calls out her school for not giving kids the nutritious meals they pay for and deserve. "Alright so I paid for this to eat at lunch today," she wrote. "I thank God every day that my family has the money where I get to go home and eat actual food.
"There are kids at this school who this is ALL THEY GET TO EAT, and we were given a hotdog bun with cheese. It's honestly sad to know that we go to school and pay around three dollars for something that costs 50 cents to make."
Her post went viral, garnering over 1,000 reactions, comments, and shares. Rich Kilchrist, a registered dietitian, commented, "there was no mistake when this 'meal' was served!! In school systems menus must be approved by Licensed Nutritionist months before ever being put into standardized recipes and put into production.
"The fact a signature by an accredited Dietitian is on the menus with this obvious poor attempt to minimize costs at the expense of the health of children should be investigated by the district superintendent. Nutritional health of students is not an area to try to capitalize and make profits."
"This is such a pathetic attempt of a nutritional meal," another commenter wrote. "Who even thought that was acceptable? I question their intellect and morals." Commenters from other states lamented similar issues within their home school districts. Apparently, this is not a problem that's contained to Apollo High School in Minnesota.
Too many kids rely on school lunches for the bulk of their daily nutrition, and schools have a responsibility to give their students all the tools they possibly can to help them succeed. A nutritious and filling school lunch is part of that.
According to TODAY, "the government requires 'most schools to increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free and low-fat fluid milk in school meals; reduce levels of sodium, saturated fat, and trans-fat in meals; and meet the nutrition needs of school children within their calorie requirements.'" Needless to say, the meal Maryn shared does not meet those standards.
There is certainly a lot at play here. Many public schools around the country are underfunded and must work with extremely tight budgets. Education is not supported the way it should be by our government. Maryn, for her part, isn't done fighting for better school lunches at Apollo.
In an update on her Facebook post, she wrote, "I had a meeting with my school principal and was told I get to have a meeting with the district's nutritionist. Will keep it updated. This is the start of something that could forever change my district." You go, girl.
In a Facebook post of their own, the school district responded with this arguably flippant statement: "Oops! We goofed. Tried a new menu item today at lunch and we hear it was not a winner! Going forward, we will gather input from our students on new menu options. Thanks for the feedback!" At least they seem open to feedback. And they clarified that this meal was one of several options. Let's hope that this is not the norm when it comes to the lunches they expect their students to pay for.