The student news site of Whitney Young Magnet High School in Chicago, Illinois.

BEACON

The student news site of Whitney Young Magnet High School in Chicago, Illinois.

BEACON

The student news site of Whitney Young Magnet High School in Chicago, Illinois.

BEACON

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In Defense of School Lunch

We’ve heard it a million times. School lunch sucks.

Among students, nothing is as infamous as school food. However, I would like to play devil’s advocate and examine what it does well, what could be done better, and why we should care.

Portion sizes are one of the most common sources of complaint. Beacon editor and senior Sam Li has noted that the food fails to deliver, stating, “I’m bulking, I need to eat more.” 

To shed light on the menu, Whitney Young students can now use MealViewer to view the daily menu along with nutritional information, enabling them to make more informed dietary choices. If students elect to eat everything that is served—an entrée, a side, a serving of fruit, and reduced-fat milk—Whitney Young lunches average about 600–700 calories per meal. 

According to CPS Nutritional Guidelines, CPS complies with USDA nutritional guidelines and serves only whole grains, ensuring healthy meals for students. That said, the nutritional content could still be improved. Students should be encouraged to eat more vegetables, with dishes students will want to eat. Furthermore, sugary fruit juice and sweetened fruit should be served less, and saturated fat and sodium levels should be lowered further.

One aspect of school food often overlooked is the cost. According to CPS’s Stats and Facts, 70.7% of CPS students are economically disadvantaged, qualifying for free or reduced-price meals according to national guidelines.

With schools beginning to close at the height of the pandemic, Alderman Anthony Beale wrote to then-Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Governor J. B. Pritzker, “It is critical that here in Chicago and throughout Illinois that we find a way to ensure the distribution of food to every family or child.” Many families rely on school breakfasts and lunches, so much so that CPS schools remained open to serve meals during lockdown. Students across the district should be conscious of the privilege of having free meals.

Ultimately, the most controversial aspect is undoubtedly the flavor. When questioned about school lunches, an anonymous teacher told the Beacon, “It’s so different from how it was back then.” For many students—even recalling the menu from just a few years ago—today’s lunches leave much to be desired.

That is to say, the food is mid. And in my opinion, it’s kind of true. I don’t know how they manage to cook and season vegetables and have them still taste like nothing. And the way they do ethnic food is questionable. I will never eat the dough worms they call noodles. But the spicy chicken patty is pretty good, and we should be thankful to have it.

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