Why Your Child Should Eat Junk Food for Lunch

According to USA Today, America’s National School Lunch Program uses meat that is not even considered safe by many fast-food restaurants.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture claims that the meat it buys for the school lunch program “meets or exceeds standards in commercial products.” Nevertheless, McDonalds, Burger King and Costco, to name a few, test the ground beef they buy up to 10 times more often than the USDA tests beef prepared for our school children.

It is not just the beef that is dangerous.  The USDA supplies schools with meat from chickens that would otherwise be used for compost of pet food.  These chickens are turned down by both KFC and Campbell’s Soup because of quality considerations.  This is even more troubling because children are more vulnerable than adults to food-borne illnesses such as Salmonella or E. Coli poisoning.

While some of us may be surprised and disgusted by this, the US government has known for almost ten years about the lack of standards tin place for the school lunch system.  In 2009, then-Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman promised the USDA would adopt the highest standards for our schools.  School cafeterias have yet to see a change.

This unsafe, possibly diseased meat is being served to 31 million students a day. Sixty-two percent of these students qualify for free or reduced-price meals (USA Today).  In these economic times, we cannot expect these numbers to decrease drastically any time soon. 

As the Development Director at an Inner-City School in the Bronx, I know that the meals our students eat in our cafeteria are often the only full meals they eat all day.  Students have told me on more than one occasion that they are starving at 4:30pm when school lets out because they did not like the school lunch.  In order to make it through the after school program, these students buy unhealthy snacks and sodas from the vending machine. 

Although our cafeteria staff works hard to provide nutritious, fresh meals to our students, it is nearly impossible for them to do so.  As Beth Buczynski noted about a month ago, Congress continues to reduce funding for school lunches.  Today schools only have $1 per child to buy ingredients.  These budget restrictions force schools to rely on the “mystery meat” that the government gives them to work with.

Rather than trying to save money by cutting the school lunch budget, Congress should look at the costs they are creating with these unhealthy standards.  Child obesity and diabetes are rising at alarming rates.  Educational programs that schools create to combat these epidemics are completely nullified when children must choose between going hungry or eating an unhealthy meal.

The Child Nutrition Act is up for reauthorization in early 2010.  Visit Beth’s piece to find more about Slow Food, an organization that is pressuring Congress to make school lunches healthier.  You can also call on Congress to approve the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act of 2009.

Andrew Maiman via Flickr/Creative Commons


Elisa M.
.8 years ago

In Japan many mothers prepare lunch for their children. Can such practice be adopted in the US too?

Linda M.
Linda M8 years ago


Charlie B.
Charlie B8 years ago

I feel that every child should eat a simple nutritional diet and not junkfood to be able to be active in their studies and sports.

Lila Castaneda

Education begins at home!
People in charge of preparing lunchboxes or providing snacks to children should be deeply aware of the importance of having healthy food if they are expected to have enough energy to become outstanding students!

Anna Clayton
Anna Clayton8 years ago

This is absurd! Food that is turned down by fast-food restaurants simply cannot be safe to eat at all. Some adults in this world are feeding children pig slop, practically (as written in this article). These are the children that will be running our country in another ten to thirty years.

Margarita Ruiz
Margarita Ruiz8 years ago

On the issue of "wasted food that gets thrown away" by places like Subway and other restaurants. Alas, this food cannot be donated to soup kitchens or homeless shelters as one would hope because of liabilities. All it would take is for one person to get sick and some unscrupulous lawyers to enter the mix and one company's attempt at a good deed (let's face it, they are still leftovers) could lead to their bankruptcy. Having said that, there is no reason why they cannot be donated to animal shelters, or local pig farms (ok, that one is probably pointless since most of our pigs are now owned by big companies like Smithfield rather than mom and pop shops).

Back to the issue at hand, there have been online petitions on raising standards for school lunches. Only by exerting pressure on lawmakers can we improve these conditions.

Linda M.
Linda M8 years ago


Elaine Dixon
Elaine Dixon8 years ago

that really surprised me I guess it is healthy to brown bag it after all.

Silvia M.
Silvia M8 years ago

I'm speechless! the world is turning upside down with the level of ignorance of people!

gerlinde p.
gerlinde p8 years ago

jamie oliver was really doing a good job,trying to change the school dinners into healthy school dinners.but what`s the use when obese mothers bring their obese children junkfood to the schoolgates because they refused jamies meals.good to know he did well in italy, but that`s another cuisine altogether.