How Healthy is Your School Lunch?

Students' health at ACHS has become a growing priority for students and staff, but healthy options conflict with the wants and economical side of the school's lunch service.

Jordan Staten, Tom Tom Staff

Every school cafeteria has it’s perks, as well as it’s downfalls. When thinking of cafeteria food, healthy choices aren’t traditionally the first ones that come to mind: corn dogs, french fries, homestyle choices and rice krispie treats just to name a few. Ultimately, greasy junk food is the stereotypical base for school lunch, but the lunch staff of Arbor Food Service, Inc., Antioch’s food provider, works to constantly improve the food options for the Sequoits they serve.

Not all food choices at ACHS are considered unhealthy. Ideally, Arbor would like to work toward a healthier menu, but everything has to start somewhere. As of now, salads, a variety of fruits, juices and sandwiches are available on the menu. Other than the food choices, Arbor and ACHS have invested money in multiple ventures around the school to help the students get started on a healthier path.

Three of the high school’s water fountains were improved this year to help reduce the number of water bottles used and to help students fill their water bottles with filtered water more quickly and efficiently.

Another investment was made toward a healthier future for students at ACHS. A new healthy vending machine was put in the gym foyer and is accessible to all students that walk the halls. Most recently, the accessibility has been restricted during all lunch hours. Every vending machine, including the healthy vending machine, are to be shut off due to conflicts with competition in sales between the vending machines and the school’s provided cafeteria food.

“I think the healthy vending machine is a great option for students before and after lunch,”Arbor Food Service Manager, Jeanne Wolff said. “The timing of the vending machine’s use, however, generates a lesson in school finances. The revenue generated from the vending machines goes toward helping various student groups in the school district, not toward supporting the food service program. Having the vending machines operable during lunch hours defeats the efforts to keep the food service program self-supporting.”

As the healthy choices are now limited, the question of what else there is to choose from is raised.

“Everyone’s perception of a healthy food is different,” Wolff said. “We offer many different foods, and just like in the world outside of school, students need to make food choices that work for themselves.”

When one walks into the cafeteria or commons to purchase a lunch, it is evident that the most affordable food choices are most certainly not the most nutritious and the sales of food choices purchased by students reflect that entirely. One cannot question why the majority of students pick the meal with a large piece of pizza and fries for $2.00 over the salad for $4.50.

“Our costs to purchase ingredients have generally increased over the past four years, though prices that students pay for those foods have only increased recently,” Wolf said. “When food prices fluctuate due to floods, droughts, extremely hot or cold weather, our costs increase, but we do not pass those costs on to the student consumer.”

Like every cafeteria, there are complaints about selection, availability and price. However, there are also perks and many enjoyable aspects.

“When I order hot lunch I am satisfied with the healthy choices in the lunch line,” junior Ashley Reiser said. “I usually go for the fruit cups and a nice healthy caesar salad. There is plenty of variety to choose from, such as the fruit and the parfaits.”

Each year Wolff gathers volunteers to hear their opinions and suggestions to better the school’s lunch options based on the student’s likes and dislikes. Wolff, in partnership with ACHS, continues to work on bettering the school menu in hopes to influence a healthy lifestyle on as many students as possible.