Getting High School Students to Eat Lunch

This story in the Times confirms what I had believed for a long time; that most high school students on free/reduced lunch don't take advantage of it. (The article is about San Francisco but applies here.) Why? Stigma. It's easy to identify who is getting that lunch by what's on their plate because of a the a la carte nature of many cafeterias (free/reduced lunch students can't access all the food because of federal laws).

From the article:

Lunchtime "is the best time to impress your peers," said Lewis Geist, a senior at Balboa and its student-body president. Being seen with a free or reduced-price meal, he said, "lowers your status."

Some stats:

"In Seattle, roughly 40 percent of public-school students qualify for free and reduced-price lunches. Thirty-eight percent qualify in Kent, 28 percent in Edmonds and 11 percent in the Lake Washington School District. Only 37 percent of San Francisco's eligible high-school students take advantage of the subsidized meal program."

I'd have to call but I'd bet the Seattle for percentage of high school students who use the subsidized meal program is the same as the San Francisco one.

This is such a program because many students - no matter their status - like to get chips and a soda or energy drink for lunch. Eating that or nothing is not good for them. I was surprised at a PTSA meeting at Roosevelt recently to learn that the student leaders had agitated for - and got - a milk machine installed. At least they are trying (and chocolate milk has calcium and protein just like unflavored milk).


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