Student: Would you eat this for lunch?

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Photo by Ariana Marrero.

This was lunch at Hartford's Bulkeley High School on March 12. The main course is "shredded turkey" in the lower right.

We, the students, feel as though the school lunches aren’t taken as seriously as they should be.

The school lunches are only getting worse. Sometimes we are served uncooked meals. Sometimes the schools run out of lunch to serve the kids. It is unfair how all Hartford Public Schools get the same types of food.

If parents saw the kinds of food their children have been eating, they would be disgusted.

When my sister visited her children’s school and saw what they were being served in the cafeteria, she no longer allowed them to eat the food.

Not every student is privileged enough to be able to opt out of school lunches.

On Saturday, April 11, a convening called School Your Food! took place at the Hartford Public Library. Youth from Hartford and other cities gathered to voice their opinions on the school food system.

Both youth and adults who occupy different roles in the system talked on a panel in front of a crowd of about 100 youth and adults. In the afternoon, we split participants into different groups, who then had a discussion about what was said during the panel. They came up with short- and long-term goals to provide a solution for the school food system.

Some of the goals that we arrived at were:

  • Students voicing their opinions
  • Bringing our issues to the government
  • Growing a garden at every high school in Hartford
  • Increasing student communication with the school food service director
  • Holding town hall meetings that incorporate youth decisions in school policy making

On the panel, students from Pathways Academy of Technology and Design, E.O. Smith High School, and a student from a Buffalo New York High School were asked questions about their experiences with their school lunches.

Some of them talked about how their school runs out of school lunch to feed the students. This then causes the students to wait for more lunch to be served, which then takes time out of their classes to learn.

Another student talked about how some of his friends depend on school lunches as their meal for the day.

The government is currently trying to cut the budget for school lunches. If they proceed with this, the school lunches will likely get smaller. The amount that is being served is already not enough to fill the students up for the whole day. Cutting the budget will only make things worse.

Gov. Dannel Malloy is trying to cut the Healthy Food Certification Program. Did you know that without this program, fresh fruit is not a required item on a school lunch tray?  We need to keep this program because it allows students to be able to go to school and get the desired nutrition they need, even though they feel they aren’t getting served enough to fill them up for the day.

We the students would rather continue getting the amount we are currently served. Getting less food won’t help at all.

As a whole, we want to equalize the playing field between youth and adults. The youth are afraid to voice their opinions because of consequences. We need to have structures that value both youth and adult voices equally.

We hope that the convening and our continuing follow-up action steps will show the state and the federal government how serious the students are about the school food system.

Giniva Palmer is a sophomore at Pathways Academy of Technology and Design. She is also a member of Grow Hartford, a group that can be reached at growhartfordyouth@gmail.com.

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