Students demand better food
Philadelphia students and parents argue that the current school lunches provided by the district's soon-to-expire-contractor are not healthy enough.
This July, the largest lunch provider for Philadelphia schools will see its contract expire, and students, teachers and parents are calling for the new contract to require more health foods.
Most students in Philadelphia public schools eat lunches from the district's 233 satellite kitchens that store and heat frozen meals, as opposed to the 67 full-service kitchens where workers can prepare meals on-site. The pre-plated, frozen lunches often include hamburgers, pizza, meatballs, chicken nuggets and turkey hot dogs.
While Philadelphia's federally and state-funded lunches are regulated by the USDA under the National School Lunch Program, the low budget for each lunch (less than $1.40 for the food) limits options, according to the district, another sacrifice to address a tightly-stretched budget.
Students from Youth United for Change and other organizations including Asian Americans United, Philadelphia Student Union and Philadelphia Federation of Teachers are looking for the district to provide healthier options to help students remain focused and perform well in class. The groups' demands, which were read to the School Reform Commission last year, include adding food labels, requiring 20 percent of food purchases to be from local farmers, involving students in food decisions and creating a central kitchen and distribution center.
Numerous studies have shown that a healthy diet improves academic performance. A 2008 study in Nova Scotia found that students with a healthier diet were less likely to fail a literacy test, even after researchers adjusted the data for influence from parental income, education history and gender.