School Lunch Feedback

Ben Chapman:

School lunches in the U.S. can get a bad rap: pizza day is OK; everything else is meh. And schools regularly chew over the dispiriting stats on fare that goes from tray to trash. According to a USDA study, about a quarter of school food ends up in the garbage.

So now, Portland and a growing number of districts nationwide are revamping their menus by relying on the opinions of students themselves. Students can be unsparing food critics, Ms. McLucas said, as the carrot hot dog debacle in 2019 attested. That item, which consisted of a roasted vegetable placed inside a typical hot dog bun, lasted for one day before it was removed from the menu.

“Kids didn’t want the carrot,” she said.

Broadening the cafeteria menu is tricky. President Harry Truman signed the National School Lunch Act in 1946 and now more than 30 million students eat lunch at school. As popular as the program is, it isn’t known for its flair. Currently, the top two most popular items are cheese pizza and fried foods, with french fries a top “vegetable,” according to Harris School Solutions, an Ottawa-based technology provider that tracks data on school meals.