Hall Talk: There's junk food on the school menu

Posted: Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Pizza, jo-jos, nachos or corn dogs - come and get 'em while they're hot. Get your soda, Popsicles or cookies. You'd think that you were at a baseball game, but actually this is what is served at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School during lunchtime.

When your child says that he or she can get lunch at school, these are some of the choices. Nutritious? I don't think so. Well balanced? I think not. Tasty? Oh yeah!

Did you know that about 13 percent of the nation's children and teens are overweight, according to a survey in the Journal of the American Medical Association?

I am an eighth grader, and I attend Dzantik'i Heeni. In case you haven't read my other column I have been polling students at my school for an eighth-grade project called ROPES, which stands for Rites of Passage Experience. This time I decided to poll students about the lunch program at my school. Here's what the 30 respondents had to say about the options offered.

I first asked what fellow students thought of the food that was being offered, such as the pizza, nachos, jo-jos or corn dogs and whether or not they thought it was healthy. I got a variety of answers, mostly mixed about not being healthy, but they liked the food, especially the pizza.

One student said, "(Our options) are very fattening and not healthy. If people want to waste their money that is fine with me. Even though the food is unhealthy everyone has to have it once in a while."

What about foods that are more nutritionally balanced? I asked the students if they thought DZ needs more nutritiously balanced food. The majority, 67 percent, said they would like to see more healthy options. I also asked what they would like to see offered. Most students said they would like to have fruits, salads and sandwiches.

A medium apple is loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals and natural sugars for those with a sweet tooth. It is also only about 80 calories. Many also requested rice. Although I heard many healthy suggestions, some were exotic, such as Japanese food.

I asked if the foods offered really paid off for the amount you paid to what you got. The majority, 57 percent, said they felt the foods left them on a sugar high or half-hungry. Some even said they thought part of the problem was that the foods are distributed in too-small portions.

The last question I asked students was if they wanted to see a real hot-lunch program offered. Seventy-seven percent said they would.

The school district has been talking about getting a more balanced food program into the school, officials told me. But the program we have now actually does meet the guidelines in nutrition, believe it or not. The school district told me because the schools do not have kitchens we wouldn't be able to have a "hot" lunch program, but they are considering other healthy options.

Lunchtime at DZ is only half an hour long. I realize that pizza and nachos are fast foods. So are fruits and vegetables, as well as other nutritious foods. Why aren't they for sale? Who decides what to sell us? Who says teenagers only eat greasy fast food? And what about those who bring their own lunches and need a microwave? DZ has only two in the lunchroom, but there are always long lines for them. Two microwaves don't seem to be enough.

This forces many kids to buy what the school provides.

My intentions for this topic was to see how the students felt, but it looks like there could also be some changes made to the menu.

Taelyn Coffee is a student at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School.

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