Following the news that LAUSD has rejected Jamie Oliver’s offer to help improve school lunches by bringing his Food Revolution to L.A.’s school district, we decided to check in with the real expert critics, the students who are actually affected by the district’s decision. We spoke with five high school students at three different LAUSD schools to see what they and their peers are eating, how school lunches could improve, and what they think of LAUSD’s decision to spurn Oliver. Grab a heaping spoon of some Hamburger Helper, a frozen burrito, and some spoiled milk and see what they have to say.
What are some of the healthier options you have during your school lunches?
Natalie, 15, Abraham Lincoln High School:
“We don’t get healthy choices until they run out of the food they originally give. The healthy foods are salads, yogurt parfaits that don’t look too good, or two pieces of bread with lettuce and American cheese in between. They give us an option of a few healthy sides like fruit, vegetables, fruit cups, and milk.”
Baiyina, 13, City of Angels High School:
“The healthiest options I have are small servings of fruits, vegetables, and the occasional small, packaged salad.”
Guillermo, 15, Abraham Lincoln High School: “I don’t think we have any type of healthy food. It’s all microwaved.”
Falou, 15, Hamilton High School: “Some of the healthier options are the grapes. They’re free and they are just as good as the ones at grocery stores. They also have salads that are pretty good.”
Jesse, 15, Abraham Lincoln High School:
“During my school lunch they offer a variety of fruits and vegetables, which are sometimes spoiled. Other than that, there really isn’t anything else, when there really should be.”
What do you usually eat for lunch at school?
Natalie: “Depending on what they serve, I might eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, greasy pizza, gooey spaghetti, or frozen burritos. Sometimes I don’t eat lunch, ‘cause it looks like they’re serving vomit in a tray or dog food with rice.”
Baiyina: “Everyday at school, typically I eat what’s on the menu for lunch that day. Honestly, if I had to choose from having a cheese burger for lunch or a tuna salad, I would choose the cheese burger.”
Guillermo: “I eat burritos. I don’t think we have a lot of options.”
Which foods appear to be the most popular?
Baiyina: “I see students around me eating foods like cheese burgers, chili cheese fries, hot dogs, and other not-so-healthy, but very deliciously popular foods.”
Guillermo: “I see a lot of people eat burritos. That’s famous around school.”
Falou: “Their buffalo wings are pretty good. Beside that, there are the disgusting burritos, dry chicken strips, and chicken sandwiches.”
Jesse: “Everyday they change what there is for lunch, but there always is PB&J.; Many people prefer that, other than all the other not so good foods.”
Do you feel there are enough healthy options for your lunch?
Jesse: “From what they do have every day, it is always so greasy. I don’t think it is healthy at all. Yet they’re complaining about students being overweight.”
Falou: “At times I feel like the food they provide at school does not adequately sustain my hunger. I feel like the choices are very limited. I really like the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches though. Typically, I eat ice cream from the student store, grapes, or on occasion, their pasta.”
Baiyina: “I don’t think the school is having any consideration about the student’s health when they serve Hamburger Helper versus a vegetable lasagna for lunch in the same day. They already know the majority of the students will choose the Hamburger Helper. I assume that when the cook is in the kitchen, he or she would prepare more burgers and burritos than salads and vegetables.”
What could be done to improve your school’s food?
Natalie: “They could probably serve some better stuff. It’s low quality food that seems like it’s been frozen–forever. It’s sad that you have to eat this gross food, yet you have no choice but starve or eat crap. If they offered juice like they did last year, that’d be awesome too. It’s gross to eat a burrito with milk.”
Baiyina: “I think that just offering healthier choices in general would be a big step towards improving quality. Quality and health is very important regardless of whats on the menu.”
Guillermo: “I think our school food shouldn’t be microwaved and reused. We need something that will keep us up, not make us throw up.”
Falou: “I think my school can improve on the quality of the food a lot, as far as how moist the damn meat is and lots of other stuff. Sometimes the apples are expired or the chicken strips are way too dry. It just feels like they don’t put any love into what they are serving the students.”
Jesse: “Let it be something not as greasy. Also, the food [should] be fresh. Everything that they give has been in the microwave, so at one point it was frozen. That is just nasty. How can that be food? One thing that just drives me crazy is the milk. Sometimes it’s spoiled.”
Have you seen any improvements at lunchtime since your freshman year?
Natalie: “One thing that has improved is that our school now has two lunches, so the lines are way smaller. Last year, sometimes the line would be too long to eat.”
Jesse: “Since freshman year, I really haven’t seen any changes. It is in desperate need though. If one will happen it needs to and soon.”
Falou: “What I do think they are getting better at is the whole meal itself. Like you can get a lot. One of the primary foods for instance is a corndog, a milk, a juice, and 2 sides: grapes and diced apples.”
Guillermo: “Last year they had a lot more options.”
What do you think of LAUSD declining chef Jamie Oliver’s offer to help improve student’s school lunches?
Jesse: “Needed somewhere else? False. We really need someone like him. If he didn’t think so, he wouldn’t have wanted to help us out. LAUSD shouldn’t have declined this. Who knows when another opportunity like this will happen?”
Natalie: “LAUSD should have asked what the students thought. They tend to decide things without even asking what the students feel. [They] won’t improve lunch quality because it costs money. What LAUSD needs is a lunch miracle. That chef might have been a chance.”
Guillermo: “Seriously that’s not cool. They are selfish. They should have had a meeting with parents and students that attend LAUSD schools, because this food is not healthy.”
Baiyina: “I think that is outrageous, that is an amazing opportunity for Jamie to give the students healthier choices that actually sound and taste delicious, and improve quality.”
Falou: ” I feel that’s very selfish of the LAUSD and they should’ve at least tried to see what we had to offer, because most of the people at my school hate the “County Food.” It’s time for a change from the same old nasty s—!”