Nutrition Problems in the School Lunch

Photo Credit// Indigo B

Photo Credit// Indigo B

Neela Furgeson


A school lunch is typically made up of a drink, entrée, choice of fruits or vegetables and sometimes a side. Every school lunch has a basic regulation: only 30% fat and 10% saturated fat maximum, and the government would prefer to have schools try to have less meat and more greens. But the problem is that the limited food choices (although under regulation) are still not as healthy and nutritious as they need to be to properly fuel students.

There are 55 million kids at public schools in the U.S., and 12 million kids who have to deal with food insecurity. Thanks to school lunches and the free lunch program, kids don’t need to worry about packing meals or having enough food for lunch because they can easily access food at school.

But the school lunches, although they might appear to be as healthy as possible, have some problems. The budget, for instance, is incredibly small. The price for a school lunch can only barely exceed the price it took to make the lunch and what it cost for the equipment and salaries. That price is only three dollars. Because the budget is so little, it doesn’t leave much room for imagination and it can be really hard to find healthy meals that kids will enjoy.

The food that the school offers typically comes from contracts that the district makes with food companies, and the food from these companies aren’t exactly the healthiest. The drink options are milk and chocolate milk, and sometimes juice. One serving of chocolate milk can have up to six teaspoons of sugar, and considering that the ideal daily sugar intake, according to cardiologists, is only 7 teaspoons for children ages 11 and up, it’s not very healthy. The entrees typically aren’t popular with students with complaints about how they might be cold or soggy.

Other countries strive to make sure that their students have access to healthy food. Japan is known for having some of the healthiest school lunches in the world, and it has a very low obesity rate, only 3.6 percent. Japan takes nutrition seriously and strives to teach students healthy eating. Their lunches are typically composed of miso soup, rice, and dried fruit for dessert. Another country that tries to make its meals healthy is South Korea. A large number of its students take part in extracurricular activities like sports and require a healthy meal beforehand. They usually give out something like tofu with fried rice, fish soup, and different kinds of vegetables and fruit.

Having a healthy lunch is incredibly important in an academic setting. Not only does it improve academic performance and behavior, but it can lead to better memory, concentration, future habits, and a healthier lifestyle. It also helps prevent obesity, which is a problem in the U.S. The school lunches have a lack of nutrition and to help the students get the nutrients they need, it has to start improving.