What Are They Feeding The Kids At School?

The always feisty Center For Science In The Public Interest has released a school lunch report card and while no state received an “A”, only Kentucky and Oregon are close to the CSPI’s standards. Oregon went from an F to an A-, but it wasn’t easy:

“You would think that with all the concern about childhood obesity that getting junk food and soda out of schools would be easy. But, it took us six years of hard work to pass our school nutrition legislation,” said Mary Lou Hennrich, executive director of the Community Health Partnership: Oregon’s Public Health Institute, who led Oregon’s effort to improve school foods. “We welcome national action to build on what we and other states have done and ensure that all children go to school in junk-food-free environments.”

Here’s the report card:

A- Kentucky (1), Oregon (2)

B+ Nevada (3), Alabama (4), Arkansas (5), California (6),Washington (6), New Mexico (7)

B New Jersey (8), Arizona (9), Tennessee (9)

B- Louisiana (10), Texas (11),,West Virginia (12), Connecticut (13), Rhode Island (14), Florida (15)

C+ Hawaii (16)

C Maine (17), Mississippi (18), Illinois (19), District of Columbia (20)

C- Colorado (21), South Carolina (22)

D+ New York (23), Maryland (24), North Carolina (25)

D Oklahoma (26), Virginia (27)

D- Indiana (28), Georgia (29)

F Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin, Wyoming (All ranked 30)

The states which received an F have only the standard USDA guidelines, which the CSPI argues are “woefully out of date” because the USDA doesn’t have the power to regulate foods that are sold outside of meal times (there is a national regulation that requires all schools to turn off their soft drink machines during lunch periods.)

The policy the CSPI rated #1 came from Kentucky and contains some fairly strict rules. No foods or beverages can be sold outside of the school lunch program until 1/2 hour after lunch periods end. No whole milk is allowed, only fat free or 1%. Water is allowed if it is noncaloric and un-carbonated. Only 100% juices are allowed. No sweetened beverages with more than 10 grams of sugar. No portion sizes over 17 oz for elementary schools, 20 oz for junior and senior high, and so on. There are portion controls on the menu items and sodium limits galore. Schools must limit sale of outside fast food (McDonald’s, Taco Bell, etc.) to no more than once a week.

We think the “no whole milk” rule is a bit draconian. Then again, when we were in high school they served Pizza Hut every other day, so perhaps our idea of what is normal is irrevocably skewed.

School Foods Report Card 2007 (PDF) [Center For Science In The Public Interest]


Edit Your Comment

  1. SuperSally says:

    Hooray Kentucky! I wondered if my daughter’s school was particularly health conscious or if that was a state thing. I’ve eaten lunch with my girl twice now this year (she’s just started Kindergarten) and I’ve been rather impressed with the amount of students voluntarily eating their veggies and fruits.

  2. fluiddruid says:

    Is there a good reason that young children (not teens) should only have 1%? Lowfat diets are not appropriate for growing children without weight problems.

  3. Adam291 says:

    This is actually interesting. If you look at the states with highest obesity, it’s the southern states with the highest rates, and the northeast states with the lowest. In this, though, the southern states are better off than the northern states. I guess this means obesity doesn’t come from school lunches.

  4. DrGirlfriend says:

    Yay Oregon!

    I agree that only 1% milk for kids in elementary school seems wrong. If anyone should be having whole milk, it’s kids that age — especially if all these other weight control measures are in place.

  5. SaraAB87 says:

    I went to a catholic grade school, yup brown bag every day except for once a month pizza or hot lunch, yup hot lunch was a real treat for us. Oh yeah we had milk forms where we were allowed to order milk so we wouldn’t have to bring drinks, and everyone just ordered chocolate anyways. I think it was 2%.

    In high school you could have whatever you wanted, either brown bag or what they served, and some days brown bag was a lot better! The food wasn’t so bad until senior year when they switched from actually making the food in the kitchen most of the time to 99% processed food that tasted horrible. It was not bad when the food was made in the kitchen and they made really good pizza, chicken wings, tacos and subs, and chicken nuggets and spaghetti with garlic bread. Yeah that was the extent of our high school menu, I will never forget those giant jars of mayo.

    We also had the lovely rule where we were forced to drink milk though, yup no other choices were allowed, if you wanted something else you had to pay extra to get it from the juice machine which was left turned on, and that just contained ultra sugary juice anyways. There was chocolate, whole, 2& and skim milk. Water was not allowed to be served in bottles either, and believe me some of us were begging for bottled water.

    Whats wrong with 2% milk, its not as fatty as whole milk and it doesn’t taste as disgusting as 1% or skim milk. I think whole milk tastes disgusting personally.

  6. Imaginary_Friend says:

    Whole milk isn’t really necessary after 2 years of age.

    “…if your 5 year old goes from Whole Milk to 1% Milk and typically drinks 3 cups of milk a day, he would save 150 calories a day. Although that doesn’t sound like much, since you gain about a pound for every 3500 calories you consume, those extra 150 calories might cost you an extra pound in body weight every 3 weeks or so (150 calories/day x 23 days = 3450 calories = 1 pound).

    So what should you do? According to the AAP recommendations, if your toddler isn’t going to continue breastfeeding, you should switch her to whole milk once she is 12 months old. Next, switch to skim or low fat milk at age 2 years.

    Making the switch at an early age is much easier than doing it when your child is older, when they are more likely to notice and be resistant to switching to low fat milk.”


  7. MelL says:

    @fluiddruid: Probably to compensate for the amount of fat they’ll be taking in outside of school cafeterias.

  8. wallspray says:

    On the type of milk thing, the reason for low fat milk isn’t necessarily due to wanting a low fat diet, but rather an attempt to change habits. What you drink as a kid is what you will drink as an adult. I was only ever given 2% and to this day anything else just seems wrong.

  9. BlondeGrlz says:

    If my high school had taken away Coke there would have been a riot. For exhausted teenagers who had little or no access to coffee, caffine was the only way to stay awake during class. But that was in Virginia and they still only get a D.

  10. saltmine says:

    Who’d a thunk it? Kentucky, Alabama, and Arkansas rounding out the top 5.

  11. misslisa says:

    Hooray for my home state of KY! With our low-fat, healthy lunches, no wonder I grew up to be such a scrawny runt… :)

  12. ideagirl says:

    @wallspray: True. I only gave my kids low fat, then one time when the store was out of it, so I bought whole. My five year old took a drink, spit it out, and accused me of serving him whipping cream.

    True story…

  13. chili_dog says:

    CSPI can bite my butt. They are nothing more then a “Tell everyone how to live” advocacy group.

    I’m surprised how we can get a 90 comment thread about a clerk Denying rights by checking for receipts at the exit door but these fake scientists are heralded as the know all be all of eating.

  14. t0ny-p40 says:

    I loved the junk food at high school. I’ve been out for two years now. But when I was at Skyview High School in Nampa, Idaho the food sucked. For example lunch was about $1.50 I think and they gave me a SMALL slice of pizza which was dry and old, a SMALL milk, a roll and a fruit. The roll was the best thing. And for a second slice of pizza or lunch it was $2.50. So some times when the lunch was so bad I could not eat it. So I would go get some candy to help me make it though the day without food. The drinking fountains where gross with gum stuck in them so I did not want to drink from them so I always bought pop.

  15. algormortis says:

    My high school couldn’t provide coffee during any lunch that we got Federal subsidy for, but we could have Coke.

    Thus, lunch and breakfast mon-thurs? No coffee.
    Friday, the night i’d be up all night and not drinking coffee in the morning, we had coffee at breakfast.

    So screwed up. Mind you, this was B- earning Connecticut. But yay on Washington and Oregon for doing so well. The school I volunteer at actually has tasty, hearty food for lunch and veggie options and all that other crunchy granola stuff we dig up here in the NW.

  16. dazette says:

    CSPI, just shut up already!! Who funds these media whores anyway? On another thread today I read they are going after salt, too.

  17. paco says:

    @dazette: They are a valuable voice in an overly corporate-driven society. Do you really want mega-corporations to decide how you live instead?

  18. paco says:

    Oh wait. The corporations really do have the final say-so–c.f. the piece about milk labeling in PA. You win.

  19. Omi says:

    Yay! My state gets an ‘F’. My highschool (yes I’m still in highschool, I’m a senior this year.) Has outsourced our lunches (I wonder if they’re allowed to do that) to a company called Aramark awhile back. A switch made after the school cafeteria closed several times due to failed health inspections.

    While the lunches are still cheaper than what you could get at any actual fast food place or food court the prices nearly doubled that year (and theft quadrupled). Now we are served almost nothing but cheese burgers, pizza, and potato chips, but no soda (that’s fattening). Oh and there are some salads for the off chance that some vegetarian decides to buy lunch, but those are only while supplies last (about 10 pre-made and that’s it).

    So yeah that ‘F’ is probably well deserved.

  20. csdiego says:

    @Adam291: Based on what I know from spending time with my in-laws in Kentucky, it’s that the southern states with traditionally unhealthy food cultures are the most self-conscious about their reputations and the most interested in turning things around. At least that’s how my husband explained to me the state law requiring every eating establishment to have a publicly-accessible restroom: the idea is to banish the stigma of the outhouse, which lingered longer in Kentucky than in some other states.


    Of all the commenters I’ve seen on Consumerist, the CSPI-bashers are the only ones that make me want to yell “Ah, shaddup!” like Bill O’Reilly. I’m not actually saying it, but I’m tempted to. I mean, what are these people afraid of? It’s just information. So, fine, they’ll pry your Monster Thickburger from your cold, dead hands. The rest of us appreciate a counterweight to the torrents of corporate-sponsored disinformation out there.

  21. phantomfly says:

    Kentucky is doing something right.

    To people complaining about the milk rule: please, you don’t think kids are eating a ton of fat otherwise? Those couple of grams of fat per day aren’t going to stunt their brain growth or whatever. The obesity crisis doesn’t just apply to adults, you know.

  22. nickripley says:

    @dazette, CS Diego, Chili_Dog:

    This might sound CRAZY, but one can take information from multiple sources, and draw their OWN conclusion! Just so you know, you don’t have to pick a side, because being extreme in any way is probably not the answer.

  23. GinaLouise says:

    My state got a B+, but my Bay Area school probably should’ve gotten an F. In the late nineties, the following were available simultaneously at lunch 1) Regular school sandwich lunch 2) Regular school hot lunch. 3) Pizza Hut 4) McDonald’s (double cheeseburger + fries meal) 5) Chinese food (huge container of sweet and sour pork, fried rice, etc). 5) A “super-sized” meal featuring an enormous hamburger patty (well over 1/2 pound) and heap of fries. And of course, the snack bar was always open for business during lunchtime, featuring nachos, chilli cheese fries, cookies, chips, corndogs, hot dogs, tacos, burritos, pizza, churros … Did I mention I had a huge weight problem in high school? :) Forget the college “freshman 10” — the pounds just fell off me after I got my high school diploma!

  24. DrGirlfriend says:

    @phantomfly: It’s not “complaining” about the milk rule. It’s more like “wondering” about the milk rule. Jeez, why must a simple question, or people asking themselves if that’s the right call or not, be met with such a pricky response?

    Someone else above mentioned it wasn’t necessary after 2 years of age. That answered my question about the matter, and quite simply.

  25. surewriting says:

    Personally, i eat 2 slices of pizza, a chocolate chip cookie, vanilla milk (probably whole), and an apple (gotta keep my figure) every weekday for my school lunch. astonishingly enough, im not morbidly obese. this is most likely caused by constant exercise, like biking the 4 or 5 miles into school in the morning. in the dark. uphill. both ways. braving traffic and crazy rednecks who try to run me down. maybe if we instilled the value of exercise in kids, we wouldnt be a nation of goodyear blimps

  26. bohemian says:

    I started sending bag lunches with our kids after two incidents about two weeks apart with the school lunch program.

    One day they had some off brand hot pockets that had batman on the wrapper. My older kid refused to eat his after seeing the sell by date on it was four years expired.

    The following week they served them fritos with chicken gravy. WTF kind of unhealthy white trash crap is that? There is no way that was conforming to any USDA standards.

  27. witeowl says:

    F*ck me. We (Nevada) got a B+?!? You’ve got to be joking. Cheeseburgers, tacos, pizza, slushies, chips (baked, granted), hot pretzels, chicken nuggets. Those are still the staples since the recent “health initiative”. The salads are made with iceberg lettuce. The only other vegetables they get are carrots only worthy of becoming missiles. The one thing I see Nevada doing right is clearing the vending machines of soda and replacing it with all water and flavored (sugarless) water.

    I mean, sure, I understand that it’s difficult; they feel like they can only sell/provide what the children will eat. At the same time, they’re selling foods that essentially train the students to be junk food addicts.

    And then, surprise, they grow up making poor food choices.

  28. thesupreme1 says:

    As a sophmore my school serves this…

    Pizza hut every other day, with french fries and Choc milk. Almost most of the stuff is frozen at one point. We have pop machines, juice, snack, milk and tea machines. We have a lot of beverages available. They also sell chips ranging from doritos to hot cheetos and funyens(Sp?) And popcorn.

    We also have open lunch and about half the school always leaves and eats outside.

    I live in Kansas btw.

  29. camille_javal says:

    Water, only if it’s uncarbonated? Why the hell does Kentucky have a problem with seltzer? That’s weird.

    It does seem to go a bit far. I mean, my middle school in Colorado sold Little Debbie snacks, which my friend and I would have with coca-cola for lunch (and yet, *that* was the year I lost a bunch of baby fat). I have more of a problem with the junk branded stuff in school, because I think there’s more going on psychologically with that crap.

    I went to a magnet school where a girl told on me when she saw I had a diet coke at lunch, and the principal told me I couldn’t bring them any more. I should have drop-kicked her. Just sharing.

  30. nardo218 says:

    @DrGirlfriend: ??? Where do you get that? Children only need whole milk until age 2. By the elementary ages, it’s perfectly appropriate to encourage a restricted fat and calorie diet.

  31. RvLeshrac says:


    Screw anyone who tries to take away my whole milk.

    Especially with specious reasoning like that. I may as well say that we don’t need social security since everyone makes $X a week, and $X*52*50 years working is a whole lot of money.

    If you eat X calories and sit, doing absolutely nothing, you will gain weight at a rate directly proportionate to your caloric intake.

    But wait, what about those people who can eat three pizzas at every meal and never gain an ounce? There are a lot of them.

    What about those kids who are on the school sports team, or are involved in extra-curricular sports?

    What about those kids who walk to school? How about the kids who take P.E. as an elective every semester (I remember the majority of the school doing that when I was going).

    If everyone was average, we’d all have 1.5 penises and a vagina.

  32. dazette says:

    Yes, anything that gets people to think about nutrition and health is a step in the right direction. And CSPI usually does make people think. Everyone just needs to be aware of CSPI’s general reputation as “junk scientists”, and their known bias against meat and dairy (the director is a strict vegetarian). Most respected university nutrition departments, like Tufts, apparently often consider CSPI’s recommendations to be somewhat outside the accepted norms for nutrition. So I’m just suggesting y’all be mindful of this, and do your own research.

  33. samurailynn says:

    Sophomores through Seniors at my high school (7 years ago) were allowed to leave campus, and almost all of them did. I seem to remember a guy friend bringing a cake back from the grocery store and eating that for lunch.

    Then again, the offerings in the cafeteria were reheated Taco Bell burritos, iceburg lettuce (aka salad), random friend things, and what I liked to call “greasy dips”. They were supposed to be criss-cut fries, except that they were so horribly greasy and sometimes undercooked that they were about the least appealing food ever. Maybe feeding those to kids would turn them off junk food for good!

  34. witeowl says:

    @samurailynn: “random friend things”

    Damn, where’d you go to school, Donner Lake?

  35. goller321 says:

    As a teacher, I can tell you the food served plays a big role in how the students behave and perform. It has become common for money starved schools to allow soda in the cafeteria and they have outsourced the lunch lady to crap that is made in some industrial plant.
    My Mom was a Kitchen Manager and during her day everyone was served vegetables every day, they kitchen made their own breads, rolls and doughs and deserts and they put real effort into keeping the lunch both tasty and fairly nutritious. Unfortunately by the end of her career, they had started transitioning to the crap they serve today. She was appalled by the quality and lack of healthy nutrition she was feeding to the kids.

  36. czarandy says:

    Is there evidence that what you eat at school actually affects your future health? Or do they just make this up?

    It’s at best questionable to have laws to mandate behavior, if not doing it doesn’t affect anyone else.

  37. goodkitty says:

    Agree with RVLESHRAC. Instead of monitoring kids’ caloric intake like it was part of a scientific mission to Mars, how about we enact weight loss the old fashioned way, by re-instating PE and actually allowing kids to run around outside and play tag and scream at one another until it’s time for their Ovaltine?

  38. synergy says:

    I read one or two comments decrying the lack of access to coffee by kids. W. T. F. Maybe these kids should go to bed and get 10 hours of sleep so they don’t need caffeine to wake them up and later crash and burn them. The obsession of people with caffeine and coffee in particular just never ceases to baffle me.

  39. SkyeBlue says:

    The “List” of what they may be feeding the children in our schools might look good in some States, but what they are actually eating is a whole other story.

    I occasionally go and eat lunch with my children at their school and what you mostly see is that the children are given the everything on the menu on their trays, but what most of them EAT is their desserts and the major potions of their lunches (and I assume their school breakfasts also) end up in the trash cans! It is such shameful waste.

    From what I have seen at the schools the staff is busy trying to keep order and hurry the kids out of the lunch room so the next grades can get in to eat their lunch.

    I know they can’t supervise every child of course, but it is awful seeing so much good food just go to waste. Most kids just throw away their whole lunches.

  40. goller321 says:

    @goodkitty: It isn’t simply about weight loss. It’s about behavior and setting a good example and eating healthy. In my experience, kids today NEED an example of healthy eating because many parents are too lazy or too stupid to provide that for their kids. The crap they bring is often worse than the crap in the cafeteria. Yeah… “Lunchables” a bag of Oreos and a Dew are a great, healthy alternative to real food… (end sarcasm)

  41. RvLeshrac says:


    Uhh… the cafeteria food isn’t going to help. At all. Ever. Period. End of story.


    What do you want them to do? Strap the kids to the table and shove the food down their throats? You aren’t going to get them to eat what they don’t want by just telling them to do so. The more you harangue a kid, the less likely they are to do what you’re on them about.

    Standard human behavior. Just look at the average workplace. Same reason slavery only works in the short-term. People rebel.

  42. RvLeshrac says:


    I’m also a bit sick and tired of people who think the school, nanny, or anyone else is going to raise their children for them.

    I’m all for public education, but it has become day-care for ridiculously out of control children. I recall a teacher in my middle school who was fired because he defended himself when a student assaulted him. What idiocy is this? And no one need bring the “adult vs child” argument. I’ve seen middle-schoolers knock teachers flat, and high-schoolers who will bring a police officer to their knees.

  43. Jesse in Japan says:

    You would not frickin’ believe how healthy the school lunches are in Japan.

  44. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

    @RvLeshrac: Word. I used to teach in Los Angeles, and it irks me when people expect the school to be the ONLY ones responsible for every aspect of a child’s development. A school is only 1/3 of the package (parents and peers being the other 2/3).

    These meals are unhealthy for a reason: they are designed with the assumption that the served breakfast and/or lunch are the only meals the child will receive. Why is it the school’s responsibility to make sure your child gets all the energy s/he needs for the day? Especially when most kids are coming to school with chips and soda, tossing the veggies and meat, scarfing down the dessert, then eating fast food (courtesy of mom/dad) for dinner?

    At my school, we probably had 5% of parents show up for PTA meetings, but when my principal tried to ban kids bringing 24oz sodas and 99 cent bags of chips, parents came out in droves to protest. When she tried to say kids couldn’t get dessert until they ate their lunches, parents threatened to sue. Parents were more concerned about their kid’s ‘civil rights’ than thier health.

    Nevermind that 90% of the kids were getting free or reduced lunch… if you can afford daily chips and soda, why is the state paying for your kids to eat for free?

  45. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

    @ceejeemcbeegee: In addition, schools have cut funding for PE teachers, reduced recess time to meet “No Child Left Behind” parameters, slashed intramural sports programs, and dismantled most playground equipment because it’s a liability. Yeah, people have sue schools for reckless endangerment because their kid got calluses from swinging on the jungle gym.

    So the kids eat fat and sugar and have no way to burn off some of that energy… except in the classroom while the teacher is trying to teach. What fun.

  46. jamar0303 says:

    I live in China. My school would get a F, I guess. The lunch is outsourced to an upscale restaurant in the area, but it seems that our school lunch is the chefs’ training ground- it’s almost never good. Most of the time it’s Chinese food (this is to be expected- I mean, it’s China) and Fridays it’s junk food. They never get Friday lunch wrong (I mean, how hard is it to screw up fries and hot dogs/burgers/popcorn chicken?) but the lunches the rest of the week are so greasy and… hard to describe it. The defects are easier to describe- the only time they offered pasta salad there were maggots in it, and the beef curry has… parts of unknown origin in it. It’s gotten so bad that a few of the students order lunch from a nearby restaurant and have it delivered to the school gate (this is big because lunches are covered in school tuition and the nearby restaurants charge a lot).

  47. We have GOT to do something about the Milk Mafia in this country. I can’t tell you how many milk cartons get thrown away unopened in our school. Half our school is African-American, and a sizable portion are lactose-intolerant. They won’t drink milk, and I wouldn’t either if it caused gastric distress.

    Yet schools cannot offer any other drink with the subsidized lunch – no apple juice or orange juice – it MUST be milk or the kid has to pay full price. And with a sizable portion of our school also poor, they have to take what the “free lunch” offers, and that means milk.

    Even if it makes them sick.

  48. bonzombiekitty says:


    what you drink as a kid is what you drink as an adult

    I drank beer as a child? :P

  49. skinny2 says:

    My mother is a dietitian for a school district and the board decided to only serving fat-free or 1% milk (down from the 2% previously served). I believe they were discarding nearly 75% of their milk initially, eventually ordering only a fraction. In her opinion, it’s better to have the kids actually drinking milk with a little more fat than to have them NOT drink it at all.

    I think some of these programs are just overboard because you really don’t want growing kids to leave the lunch room hungry. That’s the last stop for getting something healthy and many kids get very little nutritious food once they get home.

  50. kimsama says:

    @Jesse in Japan: Haha, but what about the whale meat? That always creeped me out a little…

  51. witeowl says:

    @BaysideWrestling: Maybe where you live, but not here. Kids buying a standard lunch (which is all they can get if they’re on free/reduced lunch) get a milk AND an orange juice.

    @ceejeemcbeegee: I agree that a school is only 1/3 of the package. But, the reality is that it’s often the most responsible third. Parents are doing the best they know how, but that’s not always the best their children deserve. Schools have a responsibility to step up where possible. Reasonable lunches are within that “where possible” range.

    By the way, anyone wanting a glimpse into the twisted brains of parents and cafeteria food should check out Jamie Olliver’s School Lunch Program (TLC). Parents began a virtual underground railroad so hat kids could buy crap instead of the healthy school lunches.

  52. Gopher bond says:

    Ouch, my bones are so brittle but I’ve been drinking plenty of…Malk? [Now with Vitamin R]

  53. hazeljemi says:

    @Adam291: That’s faulty logic. Perhaps states with the highest obesity rates felt a stronger need to go in and change their lunch plans. While states with lower rates of obesity felt they had less of a problem and therefore no need to change anything. It will take years before we will see the effects (if any) of healthier school lunch programs on obesity rates.

  54. synergy says:

    I forgot to say what I thought first. Texas=B-?! Really??? Well that says a lot. I’ve seen what they serve at Texas public schools in the last couple of years (it hasn’t changed from when I was in school 13+ years ago) and if that’s a B- then I shudder to think what’s an F!

    @witeowl: Seriously? Teachers should be more responsible for people they didn’t procreate? That’s just…not right. They should be equally responsible, but not more so.

  55. no.no.notorious says:


    institutions don’t know anything about nutrition. they know what kids want, which is never really healthy.

  56. sleeping_gecko says:

    I’m from Indiana, and I can definitely understand why we got a D-! We had a variety of menus, I think their goal was usually to repeat food no more than once or twice a month, something like that (throughout middle and high school). The problem was that, even at my little schools (HS of about 600 students), if you didn’t want the “meal” (tray with the “healthy” food), you could instead just buy chips, a pretzel w/ cheese, nachos, etc. They had some apples, but they were usually mealy, so the Pop-Tarts and Hostess always won.

    A year into high school, they got a new cook. He ushed in the “we heat up frozen, pre-cooked food, not cook some of the food from scratch” era. Teachers complained about that one.

  57. cerbie says:

    @goodkitty: outside? Hah! Anyway, what good will that do when they are trying to digest processed pizza, veggie oil with fake cheese flavoring, over-processed bread, and sodas? It will probably just make them gain weight as badly as being sedentary.

    It’s sad they cut costs there so much. While it would require some cost, and actual skilled labor, it should be very easy for a school cafeteria to serve nearly-from-scratch, healthy meals, that also happen to be delicious.

    Yes, I went to one school where they made good food in the cafeteria.

    OTOH, it’s more a symptom than an issue that can be fixed by itself. Getting parents more involved, culling administrative positions, allowing disruptive kids to just plain get kicked out, etc., would go a long way.

    @ceejeemcbeegee: How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat yer meat?!

    Oh, and I broke my arm from being reckless with playground equipment. Nobody got sued. I guess I should have had greedier parents, huh?

    @BaysideWrestling: Let them drink Coke (for the caffeine-deprived: think cake).

  58. jeff303 says:

    @phantomfly: Not to mention the fact that eating a “low fat” diet that’s high in sugar, HFCS, MSG, etc. still leads to putting on body fat. The link between dietary fat intake and body fat production is tenuous at best and it’s practically impossible to test in isolation. I’m more fit than ever eating a higher fat diet (meat, avocados, nuts, olive oil) that’s lower in sugar and simple starch. For more info on all this check out Gary Taubes, “Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival”, and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”

  59. quagmire0 says:

    A tip for those states that want to score an A: DON’T SERVE ANY FOOD! Seriously, no food, no vending machines, nothing. Make the parents and kids be responsible for their own lunches. It seriously can’t get any worse in terms of nutrition.

  60. @fluiddruid: “Is there a good reason that young children (not teens) should only have 1%? Lowfat diets are not appropriate for growing children without weight problems.”

    According to my nutrition class, medical and federal guidelines DO suggest teenagers be on 2% or skim milk; whole milk is only appropriate up through about age 5 for a normal healthy child; after that they should be on 2%, and switch to skim in their teens. With, of course, appropriate adjustments for individual children and individual situations.

  61. @RvLeshrac: “But wait, what about those people who can eat three pizzas at every meal and never gain an ounce? There are a lot of them.”

    It’s still not GOOD for them. They can either be low-quality-calorie-ing themselves into nutritional deficiencies, or they can face the fact, when their metabolism inevitably slows down with age, that they’ve never learned how to eat correctly. Eating habits learned as a child and teenager are very difficult to break.

    @czarandy: “Is there evidence that what you eat at school actually affects your future health? Or do they just make this up?”

    ENORMOUSLY affects. Teenagers in particular can eat themselves into nutritional deficiencies, even if they’re getting adequate food at home. (A very typical pattern is skipping breakfast, eating a crap school lunch, and a good dinner, but a good dinner isn’t nearly enough in terms of vitamins and minerals to make up for the deficiencies the rest of the day.) For children in from poor families, school lunches can spell the difference between developmental delays and abnormalities due to malnutrition and normal development. (What children eat also plays an enormous role in how they perform at school; chronic bad nutrition, or even just chronic breakfast-skipping, correlates directly to lower grades and behavioral problems, so four years of bad eating in high school could quite clearly affect college admissions.)

    In a larger sense, the way people eat as children and then learn to eat when first eating “independently” as teenagers is how they eat the rest of their lives, and those patterns are extremely difficult to break.

    Moreover, and for everyone saying “parents should take care of it” — most parents DO NOT KNOW how to feed their children healthfully; only 19% of elementary and junior high students eat nutritionally adequate (adequate, not stellar) diets. Nutrition HAS to be taught in schools, both in the hopes children will take that information home to their parents, and in the hopes children will grow up with that information and be able to better feed themselves and their own children.

  62. SaraAB87 says:


    We are not going to get anywhere with curbing the childhood obesity epidemic unless schools start serving only healthy food (that tastes good) and teaching kids good eating habits from preschool. There is a certain responsibility that the school has to take, imagine being a parent trying to instill good eating habits in your kids so that they don’t turn into the Goodyear blimp and then having them go to school and all that is thrown out the window when they school feeds them nothing but greasy food loaded with calories and fat. Its even harder if you have “fat genes” in your family and you are trying to teach your kids good eating habits so their chances of getting obese and getting diseases such as diabetes are lessened.

    I totally agree that playgrounds need to come back and they need to be bigger and better than they were in the 80s. This is a point I am continualy trying to make. Our kids cannot excercise if there is no place FUN for them to excercise, and I am not talking about Chuck E Cheese here. Almost all the playground equipment in our town is gone and there was a ton of it when I was a kid, and it is now replaced with one plastic play structure that can hold maybe 2 of today’s sized kids max. No wonder the obesity rate is up. There is literatly no where to take your kids to play around here nowadays, unless you want to hit Chuck E Cheese or the local amusement park both which serve nothing but unhealthy food and do not allow outside food into their establishments. Even then amusement parks are only open in the summer here due to the northeast climate, so we could really benefit from some indoor play places here, there’s just nothing to do in the winter. I really pity the parents who live around here and are trying to raise their kids to be healthy.

    Schools should make recess a part of the daily routine again and gym class should be every day for 30 min or more (instead of once a week), instead of practically tying every kid down to their chair and making them study all day long and cramming more and more into their brains. They need to get all that excess energy out too. Gym class should also be made fun again where you play games and stuff and not making kids run laps because no one can be left behind like it is done now. No kid wants to run laps. This is half of the reason kids are so against excercising nowadays, the schools make it feel like work. If excercise is made FUN again kids wouldn’t shun the idea so much, they would enjoy doing it, and it wouldn’t even feel like work.

  63. mopar_man says:

    I guess I’m going to have to put the blame on parents for this. From kindergarten up to grade 9, I ate lunch at home. For high school, I went to a different school and didn’t go home for lunch. Once a week at the most, I ate what the school offered for lunch. I’m not obese. I would have to say that 90% of my schoolmates shared the same lifestyle. I think there were 2 or 3 kids I went to school with that were overweight but it seemed to be genetic (the whole family was large). If parents would take the time to make their kids a decent lunch, it wouldn’t, again, be the government’s problem to take care of their kids.

  64. csdiego says:

    @dazette: What does “junk science” mean? I’ve never heard it as anything but code for “pesky scientists meddling with industry’s God-given right to do whatever they can get away with”.

    Granted, CSPI has a vegetarian bias, and their nutrition standards are a little stricter (not different, just stricter) than the norm. But then, look how abysmal the norm is. I’m still happy to hear from CSPI as a counterweight to industry propaganda.

  65. amt88 says:

    I’d like to take away the limit on whole milk, but would prefer organic. Toxins build up in the fats so if non-organic avoiding animal fats is a good policy. Also, would love to see school programs start a garden program where the kids can learn about growing things and then the produce would be available to eat.

  66. csdiego says:

    @SaraAB87: “Gym class should also be made fun again where you play games and stuff and not making kids run laps because no one can be left behind like it is done now. No kid wants to run laps. This is half of the reason kids are so against excercising nowadays, the schools make it feel like work. If excercise is made FUN again kids wouldn’t shun the idea so much, they would enjoy doing it, and it wouldn’t even feel like work.”

    Good point. My high school (in a small town with no specially rich tax base, just a commitment to doing things right) had a fantastic gym program, with two or three activities to choose from each quarter so that almost everybody could find something to like, even the kids like me who didn’t like games. I picked up a lifelong passion for cross-country skiing from those classes. We had the traditional activities like running and basketball, but we also had tennis, swimming, archery, hiking, weightlifting, and aerobics (nowadays I’m pretty sure they would make an effort to offer something like yoga or Pilates). It was a great way to extend the benefits of gym beyond the natural athletes who have always been good at gym.

  67. Gopher bond says:

    I love how people think the availability of healthy food is the answer.

    You know you can send a text message to Papa Johns and they’ll deliver, right?

  68. ZekeDMS says:

    I’m stunned Arizona got a B. The only thing that was remotely edible in my jr. high and high school time here was the overly greasy clear-paper pizza, with some fries that were soggy from too much time in the grease. If I didn’t want that, well, there were plenty of undercooked hamburgers and old chicken nuggets.

  69. mermaidshoes says:

    i ate pop tarts, cheetos, and diet coke for lunch most days in high school, and i wasn’t overweight (and, magically, i’m still not–even though i continue to eat pretty poorly). i even ran varsity track and cross-country in high school–but i might’ve been a better athlete if i’d improved my nutrition.

    point being, healthy food is great, but being active is just as important (if not more so). in my high school, we actually weren’t *allowed* to go outside for lunch to run around or play sports (a high school version of “recess,” if you will). we had to remain in the cafeteria until the lunch period was over. if i *hadn’t* been running so much outside of school, i probably would have been pretty chubby, considering my insane eating habits and the school’s unwillingness to let us go outside.

    ultimately, even if you eat (relatively) healthfully, sitting in a desk for 8 hours a day (at work or at school) is a great way to get fat. activity level is just as much a health consideration as food intake.

  70. synergy says:

    @testsicles: That’s assuming Papa John’s is allowed onto campus and/or the kids are allowed to leave campus. My high school neither was allowed. “Moonlighting” police officers were stationed around the school, especially during lunch and after to make sure no one got in or out that shouldn’t. Yep. It was a little island police state.

  71. nanoalpha says:

    Good to know that my state’s D-

    Which reminds me–my friend, back in high school, found a cockroach in smack middle of a cheeseburger that cafeteria served for lunch. He ate what wasn’t touched by the corpse, went back to serving line, and asked for a new cheeseburger. They gave it to him.


  72. witeowl says:

    @synergy: I’m sorry, but I’m positive I didn’t use the word teacher. I said schools need to step up where possible. Schools are an extension of society. I also didn’t say that schools should be more responsible; I said that they should step up when parents are unable (due to ignorance or other) to do right by their children.

    Somehow, people seem to have the idea that other people’s kids are other people’s problems. It’s not true. This is not just because of the village-to-raise-a-child truth, but it’s also for the sake of self-interest.

    Not only do I want all children educated in general so that we have more professionals than criminals, but I also want children provided (and modeled) proper nutrition and health habits so we have more athletes than diabetics.

    FWIW, I just realized that you may have misunderstood my phrase “most responsible third”. In that phrase, I was using ‘responsible’ as having good judgment or sound thinking, not as liable. But, I spent too much time on this response, so I’m not deleting.

  73. witeowl says:

    @SaraAB87: Ooh, good point. Not only are we failing the children whose parents are poor or reckless, but we’re also undercutting the effectiveness of the parents who are trying to do right by their children.

    Yep, either way you stack it, we’re blowing it.

  74. peggynature says:

    @chili_dog: I agree. CSPI can eat my butt.

  75. peggynature says:

    Here’s an article from, you know, an actual nutritionist (the kind with a degree in nutrition) about feeding children (pdf file.)


  76. witeowl says:

    @peggynature: Yeah, because weight control is the only issue that matters when discussing the health and nutrition of our children.
    /sarcasm off

    The gods know I’m not talking about food restriction and shaming kids into weight loss. I’m talking about healthful food choices.

    Also, for anyone screaming “civil rights”: these aren’t civil rights issues and children don’t have the same rights as adults. If they did, school wouldn’t be compulsory and they could drink whiskey at twelve.

  77. RvLeshrac says:


    “Junk Science” is scientific research which adheres to scientific principles, but does not meet “your” [whoever ‘you’ is] pre-existing biases.

    “Junk Science” differs from “Bad Science” in that while “Junk Science” is simply guilty of not coming to the ‘right’ conclusion (aspartame is safe, legalized abortion results in a drop in crime rates, boys and girls learn differently and prefer different subjects), “Bad Science” uses logical fallacies, poor (or no) controls, improperly designed experiments, or outright lies in order to prove a pre-existing conclusion (forcing the data to meet the hypothesis; ‘homeopathy works,’ ‘intelligent design theory,’ ‘psychic powers are real,’ ‘second-hand smoke is definitively harmful,’ the Wirth-Lobo prayer study).

    There’s no standard definition for “Junk Science,” however, and it is often used in place of “Bad Science.” All scientific research is “Junk Science” until it is peer-reviewed and the results are replicated, but not all “Junk Science” is “Bad Science” in the same way that not all asians are hyperintelligent, not all blacks are criminals, and not all whites are smart or rich.

  78. RvLeshrac says:


    True, but school lunch programs have to be sustainable and the nutrition levels must be based on a standard. If the USDA nutritional guidelines are wrong, we need to research and implement new standards according to the results of good research – not simply implement programs based on what some organization or another ‘feels good’ about.