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February 25th, 2011
03:04 PM ET

Fit Friday: Healthier lunches bust in Chicago, tackling non-payments with cheese sandwiches

It’s nothing new to hear kids sum up their cafeteria food in one word - “nasty.”

After all, some school lunches looks like bland, pre-made slop devoid of any nutrition.

But a major overhaul to serve healthier foods at the Chicago Public Schools has faced new problems. The public school system stopped serving doughnuts and Pop-Tarts, and lunch sales dropped “by about 5 percentage points since the previous year, or more than 20,000 lunches a day,” according to Chicago Tribune.

Many of the kids didn’t even touch the healthier options such as boiled broccoli, zucchini and a pea-carrot mix.

The meals “appear to have created negative impressions of healthy foods among many students,” according to the paper.  This could be, because the school system “forbids the use of salt in the preparation of vegetables or other fresh food offered to students.”

No dough means cheese sandwiches

Schools aren’t exactly striking it rich with school lunches.  They’re struggling to feed children while remaining financially afloat, because of the number of nonpayments.  These add up fast.  Since 2004, New York City has absorbed at least $42 million in unpaid lunch fees, according to the New York Times. That means it’s hitting school budgets and educational resources.

Some school districts are offering an “alternative” lunch for kids who can’t pay.

The Lee County, Florida, school district was losing $2,000 a week from families who were not paying for meals.  Since they are required to provide nutritious meals to students, they started dishing out cheese sandwich and a juice box for kids not paying for their meals, according to CBS.

Is this creating a two tiered-lunch system - making kids who are not paying, for whatever reason, feel stigmatized? Is there a right to equal lunch, despite the family's financial inability or skipping of payments? Comments below.

Eatocracy: Students going hungry

Lunch ideas for you

If your kids aren't likely to touch school cafeteria lunches, here are some upgrades from the old PB and J from Real Simple such as apple, cheddar sandwiches on whole wheat to prosciutto, roasted red pepper sandwiches.

Also from Real Simple's 21 back to school lunches kids love, it suggests crisp bacon, wilted arugula and sautéed tomatoes pastas and chicken salad with apple and basil.

10 fresh lunchbox ideas from Parenting toys with cranberry, turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread, and homemade Lunchables.

For more complicated and artistic inspiration – or just to feel  inadequate–  check out BentoforkidletJustBento or Lunch in a box.


soundoff (120 Responses)
  1. Inmyopinion

    First, this is a gimmick gone wrong. Large number of adults are and love being addicted to the healthy food for kids syndrome, they feel like they are part of an elite group, it is about the parent's self need and the last thing they worry about is if the child ate anything during the day. At some point these kids will get sick, will end up in the hospital.

    Anybody could have told the school boards, parents that this idea was going to be our tax dollars down the drain, kids are not going to eat broccoli, zucchini and peas.

    I have heard that these foods kids are not eating are being taken home buy the school workers which I think is better than thrown it away.

    Secondly, our tax dollars as a priority above all other needs in our country should be going to feed kids who can't pay nice, attractive, balanced breakfast, lunches and even dinner and not meet the need to feed these kids with broccoli, zucchini and peas as this children might not eat again until the following day and they need feeding, nutrition.

    February 25, 2011 at 15:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • chuck

      Can't pay! Don't eat! And send a note home to the Mother to stop breeding with reckless abandon at the expense of society at large. If you want something free, here is a birth control pill. Eat that!

      February 25, 2011 at 22:33 | Report abuse |
    • sarah

      We have really got to stop cajoling women who drop babies every 9 months. Find out which of the last 100 men is the father and make him pay for the lunch.

      February 25, 2011 at 22:36 | Report abuse |
    • Amanda

      The story here is not that kids won't eat, but that parents won't take responsibility for their breeding habits. So many families will have a baby at the drop of a dime. If only they had a dime. They can't pay for the delivery, the first bottle of milk or the electricity to cool the milk. Yet in 3 months they will be pregnant again. I agree with a lower comment that these parents should be locked up for neglect and theft. $42 million in unpaid bills? Are you serious? We fire teachers because kids aren't learning, but teachers aren't to blame. Neglectful parents are 100 percent to blame.

      February 25, 2011 at 22:44 | Report abuse |
    • Iremember

      I'm 41. I remember getting one meal to eat a day and it was at school. Father preferred addictions over family and my sister and I were left with only our mother. We had to live with our farming grandparents in the summer so mom could work a couple jobs to save up money for when we can home for school. I used to sit in class and dream about that "crappy" lunch and damn right I would eat everybody else's leftovers on their tray. I've picked mold off of cheese so I could eat the cheese and I can tell you trash smells sweet when it's been in the house too long.

      These little guys can't help it, it's not their fault and we aren't talking about much. I'm conservative to the core and I know what self control is. I came from that beginning to making nearly $120k annually. I don't say that to boast. I say that because I truly believe there are times that free meal made all the difference and somebody needs to understand that. If there is a single, noble social program in America, it is the lunch program. Never forget that with the loss of three paychecks, you could be begging in the street. Times are getting ready to get very hard and what you sow in rhetoric you may soon reap in shame.

      February 26, 2011 at 09:40 | Report abuse |
    • Lynn DeArmond

      Kind of funny thing I've found after six kids.............they usually eat when they get hungry. They came home from school saying lunch was lousy and they had choice of healthy fruits, veggies etc. Didn't take long for any of my kids to eat at school as well as home. Parents need to get some balls instead of kids calling the shots

      February 26, 2011 at 11:57 | Report abuse |
    • CHERYL

      Sorry, but the fact of the matter is that (for the most part) hungry kids in America is a fallacy. I work for a social services agency and food benefits for a low income family of 3, yes, 3 people, is $526 monthly. Add in food banks and food trucks (that are available in my small city) and there should be no issue of anyone going hungry.

      February 26, 2011 at 17:58 | Report abuse |
    • Health Teach

      Iremember, I couldn't agree with you more; but just to clarify, in my state and most others, it is NOT the so called "low income" kids that aren't getting their lunch. The federal free and reduced lunch program affords low income children the right to have a free or reduced lunch, and usually breakfast, each day. What I've been seeing recently is the problem with today's economy where there are several "on paper middle class" kids whose parents are facing forclosure and living paycheck to paycheck and not paying for their kids' lunches in a timely manner. Since most schools no longer allow charging, if mom and dad get preoccupied working multiple jobs and let the lunch account lapse–or just plain have to wait a few days until the next paycheck–junior can't eat the "real lunch." It has been my experience that there kids are often too humiliated to tell anybody what is going on... As for our social systems, in my state and many others, parents actually recieve much more assistance for the government for having no job than having a full-time low paying one. (How's that for ironic.) Most of the kids I see eating the "cheese and juice" are from small, often intact, working class families that just a few years ago would have been the ones leading the contributions to the school's canned food drive. Now these families may, on occasion when they get desperate enough and overcome their pride, be at the canned food banks receiving others' donations.

      February 27, 2011 at 19:10 | Report abuse |
    • Shinden58

      If you want to reduce the number of poor women getting pregnant, why are the Republicans eleminating funding for planned parenthood. I would rather give them free birth control today than pay welfare down the road. The Republicans just don't get it when it comes to birth control.

      Why do the Republicans say the want the government out of your life but they want to meddle in a woman's choice to have an abortion or not? Kind of makes you wonder which side of their mouth they are talking out of.

      February 27, 2011 at 22:31 | Report abuse |
  2. Valerie

    We are in a "nice" NW suburb of Chicago and the kids (I have two sons) here with money all snub the good for you stuff too, so it's not a matter of anything other than all kids want to eat the crap food.

    I think cooked vegetables is a BAD idea. How about fresh carrots and celery, apples, oranges and bananas? MOST kids will eat these. I wouldn't want lukewarm peas and carrots either so I really don't blame the kids. And YES, cheese sandwiches or peanut butter are fine for ALL kids! What is so wrong with a sandwich, a fruit, and a carton of milk for lunch with an occasional cookie for dessert? I don't get it.....

    February 25, 2011 at 17:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Inmyopinion

      Good point.

      February 25, 2011 at 18:32 | Report abuse |
    • clutzycook

      Don't forget the BOILED broccoli. Who the heck would eat that?! I'll eat broccoli, but either steam it or leave it raw! If I were a kid and my choices were eat boiled broccoli or get fat, I'd say bring on the double quarter-pounders!

      February 26, 2011 at 21:18 | Report abuse |
    • tempemom

      I agree with you on the cooked vegetables. Most kids don't want boiled or steamed vegetables. They'd rather eat them raw and some would rather dip them in a salad dressing, while others wouldn't. I also agree with you on the cheese or peanut butter sandwich idea. If someone's allergies were so limiting they couldn't eat milk products or peanuts, they could still eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Maybe the schools should start offering plain rice? I am not sure if rice is something someone can be allergic to, like bread products can. I guess I agree with you that things should be more plain and simple, and less complicated with cooking and mixing ingredients.

      February 26, 2011 at 23:08 | Report abuse |
    • D

      @tempermom-while I think it is possible to be allergic to rice (as it is possible to be allergic to anything), the incidence is much lower than for other common foods.

      February 27, 2011 at 14:34 | Report abuse |
    • IxNay

      could not agree more with you regarding the cooked vegetables. who wants to eat cooked broccoli unless it is just off the stove. what kids wants to eat limp mushy vegetables? I work with kids and provide snacks for all my programs and I can tell you, kids love fresh veggies and fruit with dip, cheese sandwiches, yogurt and juice. pasta is another good option. there is plenty of good healthy food that kids will be happy to eat. you have to blame the parents too. these poor kids are addicted to crap.

      February 27, 2011 at 21:38 | Report abuse |
  3. the_dude

    Call me crazy but how about making the parents pay? If the parents can't pay they are jailed and the kids becomes a ward of the state until they are old enough to be sent to whatever front line to die for their country. That way we take care of two problems....deadbeat parents and overpopulation.

    February 25, 2011 at 17:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Valerie

      That sounds like the makings of another Charles Dickens story to me! Welcome back to the 19th century folks!!!

      February 25, 2011 at 17:36 | Report abuse |
    • John

      You are a idiot.

      February 25, 2011 at 19:02 | Report abuse |
    • sumday

      troll

      February 25, 2011 at 21:46 | Report abuse |
    • T3chsupport

      Wow, what a brilliant idea! Instead of paying a couple hundred a year to feed a hungry child, let's instead pay TENS OF THOUSANDS of dollars to have the state raise them and imprison their parents. You should run for the Republican ticket for 2012, you might make Sarah look good.

      February 27, 2011 at 10:34 | Report abuse |
    • Shinden58

      And if the kids become wards of the state we pay for them and it costs us even more. Bad solution.

      February 27, 2011 at 22:34 | Report abuse |
  4. Stigmatized

    Here we go, don't stigmatize anyone, don't make anyone feel bad. The problem is that for the last 20 years or more everyone feels like whatever they do they shouldn't feel bad about it. Everyone should get a trophy even if they come in last. We give kid’s free junk food and everyone screams, we give notorious food and everyone screams. No one pays their lunch bill and everyone screams that the tax payers should pay more to make up the difference instead of making the parents foot the bill for their kids. Parents these days that can pay don't and instead of making their kids a good lunch they expect the school system to take care of it. Maybe if the kid comes home and makes their parents face what THEY are putting their kid through it make sink it that they need to take better care of what their child eats or brings to school. I've watch kids get so coddled I can see why this country's students fall far below other nations. If it is said it's anyone else's fault besides the parents they're just blowing smoke.

    February 25, 2011 at 17:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Valerie

      Actually, you need to PROVE financial hardship to qualify for free lunch in Illinois. So not sure what you are talking about "able to pay"......I don't know of ANY school in Illinois that just "hands out" free lunches....what are you talking about?

      February 25, 2011 at 17:46 | Report abuse |
    • Valerie

      Forgot to mention, the fees tied into the lunches are on a sliding scale, based on financial need. Some kids get "free" lunch, some get a reduced rate, some just get "free milk" and some kids, (Like mine!) pay the full amount because if parents income.....this is in Illinois.....

      February 25, 2011 at 17:48 | Report abuse |
    • Jackie

      Valerie, the problem is not with the kids on the federal free or reduced lunch program. They had to prove their income and their right to be on such programs in Illinois and all other states. It works the same everywhere because it is a federal program. The problem is with the kids who show up for school without any lunch or lunch money who are not on the federal program. In most places, the school is required to feed them anyway causing a huge financial burden on the school district since they are not reimbursed for these lunches by the federal government.

      February 26, 2011 at 16:36 | Report abuse |
    • clutzycook

      Absolutely! I grew up here in IL too and that was how it went for us. We always had to pay full price too. As far as not paying was concerned, the school would float you for a day or two if you forgot to ask your mom for the money, but they got kinda nasty after that (although you were still allowed to eat). At the end of the year, if you hadn't paid off your lunch charges, you couldn't get your report card. If you failed to do it after that, you couldn't register for school the next year.

      February 26, 2011 at 21:21 | Report abuse |
    • bobbob1

      What did the food do to become notorious? I'm lost.

      February 27, 2011 at 20:32 | Report abuse |
  5. a guy

    the root of the problem is cheap, fatty and sugary foods. if healthy foods were more affordable this wouldn't be an issue at all.

    February 25, 2011 at 17:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. TouShay

    Gimme a break, are they hungry or not? If' you're hungry, you'll eat anything.

    February 25, 2011 at 17:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sumday

      totally agree- If they are going/have to give them a free lunch make it the healthy food- If they don't eat it that's their own fault let them go hungery but a meal was provided.

      February 25, 2011 at 21:53 | Report abuse |
  7. TheLeftCoast

    Here in California, we have an awesome healthy lunch program for kids, by a company called Revolution Foods. So far, they're in California, Colorado & Washington DC. They prepare lunches that are both nutritios AND delicious, and they are extremely successful, with kids, parents & schools!

    February 25, 2011 at 18:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Inmyopinion

      I looked them up and their menu looks very good for kids and adults. I'm sure kids would eat their all natural honey-glazed chicken, I know I would. Great snacks too.

      February 25, 2011 at 18:44 | Report abuse |
    • Jackie

      My son goes to a school that uses this program. I couldn't understand why he was coming home from school hungry everyday until I had lunch with him for "Parent and Child" lunch day. I wouldn't eat it either! Now I pack him healthy lunches that he loves. I can't figure out why the schools can't manage to make nutritious food that tastes good on a reasonable budget. I do it at home and it's really not that hard.

      February 26, 2011 at 16:41 | Report abuse |
  8. Paula

    Why have kids if you can't afford them in the first place. Just because you become a parent doesn't obligate the state or government to provide you with free anything if you don't have the money.

    February 25, 2011 at 19:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • charles s

      No free lunches instead free abortions????

      February 26, 2011 at 16:44 | Report abuse |
  9. mywinejourneys

    One huge problem is that fatty foods really do taste better – that's why we saute things in oil (even olive oil is still fat), and add butter to our sauces and baked goods. As a culture, we've developed a taste for fat. So when a child is given a choice of buying a doughnut, of course he or she will select that. I know doughnuts aren't my healthiest option, and yet I still find myself selecting the doughnut as an impulse choice with my morning coffee (not the best idea). And I'm a grown adult – a child really doesn't have a developed sense of health and even mortality. It leads back to the parents providing unhealthy food in the home. They really shouldn't expect that the state will just "take care of" the junk food problem for them, while they still fill their pantry with unhealthy snacks for when the kids come home.

    February 25, 2011 at 20:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. edaa

    Exactly right @mywinejourneys – " It leads back to the parents providing unhealthy food in the home." It's time for PARENTS to take their responsibility for feeding their children seriously. Quit feeding them cr**p. Pay attention to what they eat at home and in school. And start being insistent about eating what is healthy. And stop buying them junk food – get up off your butts and cook for them. This article wouldn't even be necessary if ALL parents did their job.

    February 25, 2011 at 20:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. ginamero

    Stigmatized? I live in a very nice neighborhood and not one kid in the entire school is on a free lunch program...you have to prove you need the assistance...however, if your child forgets their lunch or runs out of money the school will give them a cheese sandwich and a juice. My youngest kid had to eat it once when he forgot his lunch box and he hasn't forgotten again. You can't feed people's kids if the people can pay...if so, then start paying for my kids lunches...I would love to pocket the money!

    February 25, 2011 at 21:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. DHANCEL WOODS

    let them eat what they want ,but require all to have exersise 30 minuits every day

    February 25, 2011 at 22:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kate

      That will certainly help.

      February 27, 2011 at 08:14 | Report abuse |
    • T3chsupport

      They've already mostly cut those things, along with arts and music.

      February 27, 2011 at 11:00 | Report abuse |
  13. Matt

    I'm so sick of these elitist's forcing. Yes forcing us to live our lives a certain way and then they go off and do the exact opposite of what they are forcing us to do. I can't believe I voted for these clowns in office. Nice try CNN another failed attempt at the truth behind it all. You guys are disgrace. I can't believe I'm saying this but I've been watching more Fox news and it's more truth seeking than you guys.

    February 26, 2011 at 04:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sam

      Elitists are probably paying the $42 million bill that the children in the school districts of New York have racked up. We've just been told that the parents won't pay for it. What are you at odds about?

      February 26, 2011 at 11:49 | Report abuse |
    • Good Patient

      I wish you could be forced to get an education.

      February 26, 2011 at 14:02 | Report abuse |
    • Good Patient

      My post was to Matt. You're an embarrassment. Get your GED.

      February 26, 2011 at 14:03 | Report abuse |
  14. Robert

    I bet if they start serving those ribs and the ice cream that the royal family eats, kids will return to the cafeteria

    February 26, 2011 at 08:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Scott

    Folks, have a little compassion or at least use your heads. We can't make the kids suffer for the situation their parents have put them in. We know kids can't learn when hungry and thus will likely do poorly in school, drop out and we'll be paying for their welfare for the rest of our lives. Even if you have no compassion for the kids, you have to see this as an investment. For example, I worked for years with a girl from a rotten home situation where nobody in her family had graduated from high school. With some supports (food, school supplies, encouragement, etc) she graduated from high school, then college, and has been working full time for the past two years. She is actually now a neighbor of mine and is planning to get married this year. Her kids will grow up seeing parents working for what they get and earning their way in life. A very small investment that will save taxpayers so much money, not just for her, but for the cycle of system dependence that would have continued for countless generations. The 'it takes a village' cliche actually is true.

    February 26, 2011 at 08:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Iremember

      Honorable and sane. We've lost our hearts, sanity, and ability to make wise choices on the left and right. Good post.

      February 26, 2011 at 09:46 | Report abuse |
    • Kyle

      ...so now she is having kids! Whether she made a successful life or not the chances are great that she would think it is her right to populate the planet some more. Folks, there are only a finite amount of resources to go around. Your child will multiply to millions more in future generations. You are not only responsible for your own child but for the millions more you have helped to create. Think about your great great great grandchildren. Water alone is a natural resource that is running drastically low all over the globe. It will be the source of wars in the future. The ease at which we bring more and more people on to the planet is mind boggling and population control is such a dirty word, that I would be surprised if this post makes it through the censors.

      February 26, 2011 at 11:44 | Report abuse |
    • truelee

      @Kyle – Agreed. My husband and I chose not to take on the responsibility of raising one or more children. To reproduce in a world that has an exploding human population and rapidly dwindling resources seemed crazy. As for the raising of a child requiring a village – thats why I try to live outside the village. Excuse me but, why would I want to help raise or support anyone elses offspring when we strenuously avoided creating our own? If you can't afford them, try birth control. It worked for me. To anyone who says its good I didn't have children – exactly.

      February 27, 2011 at 09:17 | Report abuse |
  16. Louis XIV

    Let them eat cake !!!!

    February 26, 2011 at 10:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kevin

      i think those fatties have eaten more than enough cake, its time they hit the weights and eat some veggies

      February 26, 2011 at 18:14 | Report abuse |
    • truelee

      @Kevin – and you should try eating more fish. Its considered "brain food." It just might work for you, give it a try.

      February 27, 2011 at 09:19 | Report abuse |
  17. Chicago teacher

    Healthy food = expensive...think of Whole Foods or other items at grocery stores that are organic or all natural. Since the government has decided to make education free to those who can't afford it, many parents are also claiming that they cannot afford their food either. I'm a high school teacher, and my students who "can't afford" school tuition or the cost of lunches ($1.50), are bringing their touch screen ipods and iphones to school everyday. The system has gone way overboard with offering everything for free when many families CAN afford $100 a year in tuition and $1 a day for lunch. However, everyone wants to blame the teachers for taking up tax dollars and they are the reason for tax increases, etc. WAKE UP! Teachers are some of the LOWEST paid college-degree workers. I often work 80 hours a week, and get paid for 31 a week- we get no overtime! The tax increases are coming from every parent claiming they can't afford a very low tuition/food/etc. When your children come to school without pencil, paper, etc, who do you think supplies that? All those supplies come out of MY paycheck, and I don't even have children. On top of that, when their student's do add up some fees such as lost books or lost ID's etc, parents aren't paying their fees that they owe. Bottom line, if parents that could afford things started paying for their children's supplies, food, etc., then the schools would have more money to give your children a better more complete education with better technology, better class offerings, etc.

    February 26, 2011 at 12:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. taxed

    If you can't feed them don't breed them. I want my tax dollars going to teach kids, not feed them. Why can't the so-called parents make some sandwiches with their food stamp food?

    February 26, 2011 at 12:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      Probably too busy working minimum wage jobs with wages insufficient to survive on.

      February 27, 2011 at 14:42 | Report abuse |
    • Realist

      Wal-Mart pays it's employees minimum wage or a little above and gives them horrible high deductible insurance, which they can only get if they are full time, and now works most of their new hires one or two hours below the "full time" mark, which they done, because a crappy job is better than no job. Thanks Wally World.

      February 27, 2011 at 19:21 | Report abuse |
  19. Ben

    Kids wont eat healthy food? Childhood obesity epidemic? Solution: feed healthy food at school. Worse case scenario: fewer calories consumed by obese kids.

    February 26, 2011 at 13:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. kevin

    how can kids eat healthy foods when the parents have taught them to only eat french fries, burgers and pizza. before parents force schools into serving healthier lunches parents need to serve healthier meals

    February 26, 2011 at 13:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      It really is a chicken and egg thing. It is much easier to control what is served at school, due to its centralized location. If they managed the impossible and got tasty healthy food in the schools, then the kids might ask for it at home too.

      February 27, 2011 at 14:44 | Report abuse |
  21. cpw789

    Hard not to be impressed with the if you can't feed them don't breed them crowd.

    Not a bad idea there are way more people than we need to meet the needs of the rich right now. Technology has made things so much more efficient. The only way to get things back in balance is to stop social services that allow the children of the unnecessary to keep eating. Once the parents learn their kids will just die, they won't have anymore and we can all be a lot more comfortable.

    February 26, 2011 at 15:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. JD

    Want free lunch, get a free sterilization.

    February 26, 2011 at 16:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • arrown8606t

      I agree! Unfortunately, we're not likely to pass legislation that would allow permanent physical alterations to a person. That being said, I don't know why they couldn't require something like Norplant, which is effective for 5 years. If you're going through a rough time and your kid needs free food, then you get the implant. If you get your act together, it's reversible. If not, it's a 5 year period you can't pop them out.

      February 27, 2011 at 22:39 | Report abuse |
  23. Good Patient

    I don't know what the solution is, but I do know that good nutrition fosters academic achievement. There has to be some way to provide decent meals to students who need them. Those who bark their silly heads off about "can't feed them, don't breed them" should get their heads out of their rectums and figure out that these kids are already here and they're not returnable. We need to find ways to help them be productive, well educated, and healthy.

    February 26, 2011 at 17:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • truelee

      I'll let suckers like you care about the preservation of these "caring" parents walking genetic material.

      February 27, 2011 at 09:23 | Report abuse |
    • Delores & Clyde Billingsly

      I love how the ones that are screaming "can't feed them, don't breed them" are the same ones that howl like scalded cats when the abortion issue is raised. They don't want women to get abortions yet they are willing for children to go hungry.

      The food in the article above, boiled broccoli, peas and carrots? Really, you think kids will eat that? Who ever was in charge of that menu is nuts. There are many healthy choices that kids will happily consume, it just takes a little thought and care. Most younger kids have unsophisticated palates and need simple one note foods. The other food in the article, wilted arugula, com on! Get real, children want simple tasty food.

      In our schools here you cannot get more than two lunches without paying unless you are on the free or reduced program. The parent is called and arrangements are made. The fact that this school went into "lunch" debt so bad is a testament to poor school administration as much as bad parents.

      February 27, 2011 at 17:35 | Report abuse |
  24. JPD

    Children learn by example. Although my son also likes junk food, if the options are healthy, he'll eat it. He never ate off of a kids menu at a restaurant and variety at home has him eating nearly anything he is served away from home. He is also willing to try new things, most of the time.

    I totally agree with the comment about people "not having enough money" yet they have expensive electronics, brand name clothing, ... (my students complain about buying a textbook-at a private university!) It is nonsense. NOTE: I would not want boiled vegetables either.

    February 26, 2011 at 17:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. JCL

    Why not just give PBJ or cheese sandwiches, milk and an apple/orange to everyone, whether they can pay or not? It they are hungry they'll eat it and it's a fairly balanced meal ... heck, take 2 if you really need it. Sometimes kids need to have choices made for them. This reduces costs for labor, equipment , energy and facilities ... convert the existing kitchens to home economics or vocational training classrooms or sell off the unneeded equipment for $$$. win/win.

    February 26, 2011 at 17:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Grandma

    For parents that are lower-income there are federal lunch programs available that will provide a lunch. It is not the parent of a student on subsidized lunches that is not paying, it is the parents who can afford the meal who are not paying. If a student does not want to eat the healthy lunch...go hungry. There are simple ways to create a healthy, and appetizing meal. It does require that the lunch workers think and plan.

    February 26, 2011 at 18:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • knight-colorado

      Your thinking is a little skewed....I have four children in public school.....I pay for their meals, you are making a very bad assumption aren't you.

      February 26, 2011 at 20:19 | Report abuse |
  27. In A State Of Stupidity

    Why hello, I'm just your average 12 year old! My parents provide healthly foods to come home to and to leave home to. I play sports so I would say I'm healthly. And yet when I come to school you have mystery meat burgers, pea soup and pizza. Of course I pick pizza. A year ago, I discovered how unhealthy it is so I bring my lunch and so far I've been better at sports and school. So I think school needs to provide healthier foods that don't want to make me barf. Do you like pea soup? Or rather as we call it "pee" soup... You decide

    February 26, 2011 at 18:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Good Patient

      Yeah, and I'm Queen Elizabeth II.

      February 26, 2011 at 19:08 | Report abuse |
    • knight-colorado

      I am rolling on the floor in laughter....you should be next in the white house....here's some bologna to go with that cheese

      February 26, 2011 at 20:21 | Report abuse |
    • Good Patient

      I know quite a few 12-year-old kids. Not one of them would start a sentence with "And yet". Nice try, dear.

      February 26, 2011 at 22:03 | Report abuse |
    • D

      There is a way to have healthy pizza too. It is called, easy on the cheese, whole grain crust and lots of vegetables on top. To me, such an item would be way better than boiled vegetables. Where is the creativity?

      February 27, 2011 at 14:49 | Report abuse |
  28. Chalupa

    Surprise, surprise, suprise.

    February 26, 2011 at 21:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. In A State Of Stupidity

    Like do you like want me to like act like all the like other idiotic bimbos at my like school? Or do you want me to be myself and state my opinion? But that's right, I don't care about your opinion. Yes, I might be a mature for my age and I'm in all pre-ap classes and I learned proper English but who gives a crap? I was just stating my opinion so back off.

    February 26, 2011 at 23:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      Just so you know, it isn't really proper to being sentences with "Or" or "And".

      February 27, 2011 at 14:50 | Report abuse |
  30. Sheri

    I would encourage everyone to look at how much the government gives to their local schools' free and reduced meal programs. It varies among school districts. Did you know the government also gives school systems a few cents per full-priced meals sold as well? The waste is unbelievable! I'm a teacher, and the food I see thrown away on a daily basis (tasty or not) is appalling. Simpler but healthier meals served at school would save families and taxpayers a bundle.

    February 26, 2011 at 23:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Hot Karl Rove

    While test scores in our school system and world education ranking are tumbling we can at least be happy about leading the planet on rates of type-2 diabetes in school aged kids! Nobody is even close to us on that one! God Bless America, and her bountiful reserves of corn syrup – perfectly safe in moderation! Besides, when is the last time you heard that broccoli helped make large Ag and their investors rich? Never! The socialist government definitely needs to stay out of my pocketbook and let the free market and good ol' evolution (oops, I don't believe in it actually) decide which kids will make it through school and which ones will have their brains turned into yellow #5 pudding.

    February 27, 2011 at 00:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Latonka Shatruckwa

    dem's is too many white kids takin da good foods frum da needy kids. why be hatin? i got my reparations link card praise jesus.

    February 27, 2011 at 00:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Susan

    Parents need to give up their smokes and other vices and pay for their childs school lunches. I agree with most, what is wrong with fresh fruit veggies, cheese sandwiches, peanut butter sandwiches, yogurt. That is what kids who take their lunches ususally have. What a waste to have cooked peas,carrots and broccoli if kids are not going to eat it.

    February 27, 2011 at 03:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Bob Smith

    Simple solution, in addition to proving financial hardship why now also require proof of citizenship to qualify for these programs to begin with? Then allow the school system a means of garnishing the wages for those parents who don't pay. If there are concrete consequences to peoples actions (or lack thereof) then hopefully there would be less incentive for people to scam the system.

    February 27, 2011 at 04:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. SilentBoy741

    " here are some upgrades from the old PB and J from Real Simple ... "

    And here's an old family recipe from my Mom, when I got tired of whatever she took the time to pack for me:

    "Make it your own damned self, then."

    February 27, 2011 at 04:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Lols Finnisher

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA,

    hilarious. Who DIDN'T know this would happen?

    February 27, 2011 at 05:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. a Taypayer and Concerned Citizen

    I think this is very disappointing. As a native of a suburb of Chicago, I wish my schools had served more vegetables. Chicagoans: let's face it, overall, we're a fat city, one of the fattest in America. Chicago is a city that has much higher rates of obesity than it should; we need to be honest about that. Moreover, the percentage of children and adolescents who are defined as overweight has more than doubled since the early 1970s...that's not ok. I think reorienting our children's diet in the public school system is an excellent idea. I really wish a program like this is given more time and more opportunities to succeed. I don't want an entire generation raised on pizza, burgers, hot dogs, and gyros. While those types of foods are delicious and emblematic of the city's culinary tradition, these meals should not be a normative feature in a child's everyday diet (or anyone's for that matter).

    February 27, 2011 at 06:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kate

      Kids are NOT going to eat these foods at school if they are not served at home.

      February 27, 2011 at 08:11 | Report abuse |
  38. Kimberly

    For those of you who say no pay, no food, I have a question for you. Have you ever looked in the eyes of a student who didn't get breakfast and didn't have enough for lunch? I have. I taught fifth grade last year. I couldn't stand to have 5-6 kids a day in my classroom who were hungry. Their eyes glaze over and are completely unable to learn anything. I've made uncomfortable calls to parents, and conferences also explaining that coming to school without breakfast results in a child who isn't fully awake or able to participate. I've had kids holding their tummies because of how hungry they were. Please don't punish the children because of a parents inability/or unwillingness to take care of their responsibilities. In all honesty, I spent about $500 a month on my class and a good majority $100-$200 was on meals. It sucked, but I can't let the hungry sit there useless in my classroom. 24 kids is a tough crowd at 5th grade level, it's even worse when several are being grumpy with their classmates because of their hunger!

    February 27, 2011 at 06:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • truelee

      And I have a question for you – why should I care if their own parents don't? Don't waste your emotional blackmail tactics on me. I'd feed a starving dog before I'd feed one of these deadbeats offspring.

      February 27, 2011 at 09:31 | Report abuse |
  39. Kate

    The bottome line: Kids need to be provided food that they are going to eat. Otherwise the food and money (to buy & prepare the food) is going to waste.

    I am a big fan of "healthying" stuff up. Reduced fat meats & milk products. Replacing white bread with whole grains. Baking instead of deep frying (french fries, tater tots, moz sticks, etc.) Reducing portion sizes of the unhealthier options. Etc.

    There has to be a balance between what is good and healthy for a child with what a child will eat.

    February 27, 2011 at 08:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Michelle

      No, there isn't. Kids will eat what they're exposed to. Look at kids in other countries. They grow up eating what their parents feed them. We've spoiled our kids rotten in this country. I grew up eating fresh, steamed, and boiled vegetables. I ate the same things my parents ate. I learned to like almost every vegetable that landed on my dinner plate. We need to stop coddling kids who whine at the first sign of something green on their lunch tray.

      I'm only thirty. Tell me, what's happened to kids in barely three decades? Have they all become that spoiled?

      February 27, 2011 at 12:12 | Report abuse |
    • D

      I agree with both of you. I have to BEG my 9 yo niece to eat a vegetable or fruit, and ironically she has been raised vegan/vegetarian. That is a lot of crappy "chicken" nuggets. The solution may be to go in phases. For example, why not put a little salt on the dang vegetables? It could be reduced over time!

      February 27, 2011 at 14:59 | Report abuse |
  40. john

    How about a chipotle type meal for kids? Beans, meat, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, corn and if the budget can afford guacamole. VERY easy to prepare and kids will eat it right up. It satisfies all nutritional needs while still being very tasty.

    February 27, 2011 at 10:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      Seems like no one that planned this gave that much of a crap about it. What you describe sounds good, as long as they go easy on the cheese.

      February 27, 2011 at 15:00 | Report abuse |
  41. ponytimeyo

    1. People who can't afford to properly care for children should stop popping out them babies. I can't even keep a geranium alive and yet I still manage to avoid pregnancy with a few easy precautions.
    2. Parents need to stop shovelling crap into their kids' mouths and plopping them in front of the tv. Step up and be a parent. If you don't want the responsibility, take birth control and use condoms. It's a lot easier than taking care of a child.
    3. The hand-outs need to stop. I know from personal experience that throwing money at irresponsible people does not fix the problem. It just makes them dependent on whoever is giving out the cash. The longer they're on it, the harder it is to get off and start being a responsible adult. I'm not saying that a wonderful stay at home mom of five who suddenly loses her husband should not receive any help. I'm saying that some trashy skizzbots who blow their money and stupid crap instead of the bills and poop out eight kids should be left to figure out their mess on their own. I don't want my hard earned money to fund their life of irresponsibility. I'm cool with helping people in a bad situation, just not people who refuse to grow a pair and be self sufficient adults.

    February 27, 2011 at 12:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      What about helping a trashy stay at home mom of 5? Really, 5 kids, are you kidding me in this day and age? Still, once the babies are born-no matter where they came from- there is little that can be done because we can't stuff them back in the womb. I suppose you should be supporting Planned Parenthood, but the classist nature of your comment leads me to believe that you wouldn't.

      February 27, 2011 at 15:06 | Report abuse |
  42. Henkv

    Repeat after me: "it is the parent's responsibility to feed their kids".
    If this slogan works as good as the liberal slogan "we hate the rich", then maybe our schools can start concentrating on TEACHING our kids.

    February 27, 2011 at 12:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. JC

    Because you can't give them a choice. Kids need to be "only" given healthy food. If we gave kids a choice, they would eat chocolate and power drinks all day. Its not about choice, its about health

    February 27, 2011 at 14:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • mikey

      God I'm glad I'm not your kid.

      February 27, 2011 at 20:45 | Report abuse |
    • sara

      JC is right. Or give them two healthy choices. Kids are not adults. Sometimes life is "unfair."

      February 27, 2011 at 20:53 | Report abuse |
  44. Dogbountyhunter

    What do you mean it is the parents responsibility to feed their kids? The government should take care of all of us!

    February 27, 2011 at 16:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. E

    They were surprised that kids would not eat unsalted boiled broccoli, peas and carrots? Would anyone eat those? There are plenty of ways to add fruits and vegetables in ways kids will eat them, even serving them raw is more appetizing.

    February 27, 2011 at 19:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. morph147

    honestly i agree with the above people. you cant pay. you dont eat. eventually the parents will cough up the money and make sure their kids eat.

    also dont get me started on these kids who get free lunches because their parents cant afford 2 dollars a day for their kid to eat. i think that is bull. i know for a fact most of the people who got free lunches back when i was in high school their parents could afford it. they just needed to actually spend the money on their kids instead of stuff they didnt need.

    February 27, 2011 at 20:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. sara

    Is it against the rules to take a salt shaker to school? what about a fresh pepper grinder? Seriously, no one has thought of this yet? We did it when I was in school many years ago. And as far as healthy vs. unhealthy foods ... I gotta say it was all terrible at public school. They made "pizza" with flower and water and cut up slices of american cheese. We called the hotdogs "aqua-dogs" because they were marbled with green swirls like aqua-fresh toothpaste. I never ate anything that contained more than two ingredients because it was too difficult to see the rodent hairs. All true.

    February 27, 2011 at 20:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Consultofactus

    Lemme see – take a trip through Chi-town. The "poor" have money for cable TV, cell phones, iPODs, smokes, beer, high priced sneakers but somehow can't manage a PB&J for their kids.

    February 27, 2011 at 21:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Vera

    Take a look at Dr. Kathleen Ruddy's message on the breast cancer vaccine: http://www.breasthealthandhealing.com/socialnetworking/messages/20110101.html

    February 27, 2011 at 22:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. jason

    Yes in Australia school canteens/shops are disapearing because health food was thought to be good idea but really sent them broke. Really they need to fight the fire with education and then let capitalism choose (the only healthy option that worked when i was in school was allowing fruits to be consumed during class time) and make exercise like communism and have no choice except for medical reasons and more of it with more Physical education teachers available to reduce kids waistlines. If my son or daughter get something from school at least they could leave with a healthy body because my generation gen y have got degrees and they are not using them because of too many reasons to list we are starting to see the truth about education it depends on the oppertunities and level of pay if you can afford the low starting pay packets combined with no demand.

    February 28, 2011 at 04:55 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.