California’s Pickiest Eaters Grade New School Lunches

Oct. 23, 2012 / By

News Report by Jacob Simas / NAM Youth Wire reporters

Two months into a new school year that saw stricter federal nutrition guidelines go into effect for school meals, youth reporters from New America Media fanned out in high schools across California to interview their peers and check out the view from the lunch line.

What the reporters found were wide variations in how students grade their new school meals. While none of the school meal programs earned an A, the overwhelming majority of students surveyed – 85 percent – gave them passing grades, and only 13 percent actually handed out F’s.

The findings correlate with those of a formal telephone and internet-conducted survey of students and parents just released by The California Endowment, which found that students and parents in the Golden State prefer the new meals to the old ones, by a ratio of 3 to 1.

The findings also starkly contrast with a report in the New York Times that described the sentiments of some high school students on the East Coast and in Kansas, who are rebelling against the healthier menus on social media, and several others who said they are throwing the food away in preference for chips, cookies and other vending machine options.

New America Media’s youth reporters carried out their peer survey in six California communities – Richmond, Fresno, Merced, South Kern County, Long Beach and the Eastern Coachella Valley — where the vast majority of students attending K-12 public schools qualify for free or subsidized lunch programs. While anecdotal, the interviews – in all, 45 students were surveyed — shed light on what high school students in California are thinking, both positive and critical, about their school lunches.

Below are some responses from Long Beach youth:

“It’s healthy for us, but portion size is not very much so not all students are very satisfied with what they have and they’re not fully satisfied with the selection either. There’s not that big of a selection. Also cheaper food and drinks.”
— Christian Gangler, 15, Wilson Classical High School, Long Beach

“When I was a junior or freshman I used to eat it every day a week but now I only eat it maybe 3 times a week. To me, it’s the same thing over and over again. It doesn’t even fill me anymore.”
— Abrhajaam Berruecos, 17, Wilson Classical High School, Long Beach

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New America Media

New America Media is the country's first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 3,000 ethnic news organizations. Over 57 million ethnic adults connect to each other, to home countries and to America through 3000+ ethnic media outlets, the fastest growing sector of American journalism. Founded by the nonprofit Pacific News Service in 1996, NAM is headquartered in California with offices in New York and Washington D.C., and partnerships with journalism schools to grow local associations of ethnic media.