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Sample Essay on Healthy School Lunches in America

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This sample essay from Ultius will explore the issue of schools within America failing to serve adequately healthy lunches to the children of the nation. As our readers will see in this sample essay, the freelance writers at Ultius thrive on sensibly arguing any side of any topic- especially a much debated topic as what are children should eat in school. If you find yourself overwhelmed or short on time to produce an essay for an upcoming deadline, consider using sample essay writing services from Ultius and connect with a professional writer.

School lunch in America has been a topic of debate for quite a long time. Indeed, it would sometimes seem that efforts in this regard produce so little in the way of results that one would be justified in wondering whether efforts to improve the quality of school lunches taken on behalf of a lost cause. The purpose of the present sample essay provided by Ultius is to discuss the plight of healthier school lunches in America. The essay will begin with a consideration of First Lady Michelle Obama's recent efforts in this regard. Then, the essay will turn to the problem of cost when it comes to school lunches; and after this, it will discuss the problem of children simply not eating healthier lunches even when such lunches are made available to them. Finally, the essay will critically reflect on the state of school lunches in America and attempt to get to the bottom of the real problem. While this sample reflects undergrad level essay writing, our team is ready and able to write on this subject at any level you require.

Healthy school lunches in America: The First Lady's perspective

To start with, then, it is worth noting that Michelle Obama has recently taken efforts to reform and improve the quality of school lunches, as part of her more general campaign to address the public health issue of childhood obesity. The main relevant law in this regard is the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA), which was passed in the year 2010.One of the main provisions of this program had consisted of considerably stricter nutritional requirements for the food that is served to students within schools. Julie Kelly and Jeff Stier of The National Review have written the following about this law:

Championed by First Lady Michelle Obama, the HHFKA set new nutrition standards for school meals while expanding access to taxpayer-funded breakfast and lunch to millions of students. . . . While the law was initially hailed as a noble effort to address the American paradox of childhood hunger and obesity, the HHFKA may have created more problems than it solved (paragraph 3).

It would seem, however, that this initiative, well-intentioned as it obviously is, has met with considerable failure. For example:

...the new standards led to kids throwing out their fruits and vegetables, student boycotts, higher lunch costs, and odd pairings such as 'cheese stick with shrimp' in order for schools to comply with the complicated rules (Harrington).

Some of these specific issues will be addressed in greater depth below. For the time being, though, it is perhaps worth simply pointing out that there is considerable potential for a disjunction to arise between what is a technically nutritious meal on the one hand, and what it is actually desirable as real food for children on the other. In the battle for nutrition education and preventing obesity, a child's taste profile is a key opponent. It would seem that in general, Michelle Obama's initiative has led to schools attempting to follow the letter of the law with respect to the regulations, sometimes or even often at the expense of the subjective quality of the food in terms of balance and taste. This is somewhat ironic, to say the least, and it calls into question the very concept of the "healthy" itself, insofar as the concept does not seem to adequately take into account the way that children subjectively experience their food.

In any event, it will now be worth turning to two specific issues regarding the plight of healthier school lunch programs in America. The first of these has to do with cost, both in terms of the money available to produce school meals and the money it costs to purchase those meals. And the second has to do with students simply not eating the lunches that are being served to them. Each of these issues is a crucial part of why it has proven to be so difficult for so long to achieve sustainable and meaningful improvements in the quality of the meals served through school lunch programs across this nation. 

What is the cost of a nutritious school meal in The United States?

Regarding the issue of cost, it is surely worth considering the government's funding of school lunch programs. Bettina Elias Siegel of The New York Times writes:

The federal government provides a little over $3 per student per lunch . . . But districts generally require their food departments to pay their own overhead, including electricity, accounting and trash collection. Most are left with a dollar and change for food—and . . .no one is buying scallops and lamb on that meager budget (paragraph 4).

In other words, it would seem almost absurd to expect schools to serve healthier or less processed lunches when they are expected to prepare a meal for about a dollar. This would seem to be logistically unfeasible, to put the matter mildly; and it would seem surprising not that school lunches are not healthier but that lunch programs are even able to produce edible food at all with that kind of budget.

Third party management of school lunches for children

Moreover, this problem of cost is exacerbated when schools begin outsourcing their lunch programs to food management companies. "The quality [of the food] goes down; they [the companies] have purchasing powers . . . There's no reason in the world that money [$2.68] should offer a profit. But they know how to manage the subsidies" (Schreiber). These companies, of course, have little incentive to improve the quality of school lunches, insofar as such improvements would get in the way of their profit motive; and as for the schools themselves, most are likely just grateful to have solved the problem of producing meals on such a budget in a relatively painless way. The situation thus becomes one in which the government itself is the only primary stakeholder pushing for healthier school lunches but also refuses to invest the kind of money that would be required in order to actually make this happen. The economics of the matter thus tend to take precedence, and school lunches tend to remain how they are. 

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Is nutritious food going to waste in our schools?

There is a second critical issue facing the push for healthier school lunches—an issue that is so obvious that one may almost be forgiven for having forgotten about it. One of the leading causes of obesity in children is not having access to healthy food. Here, they are provided a healthy balanced meal and declining to eat it.

Getting fresh fruits and vegetables onto lunch trays in public schools was only half the battle, because it turns out most kids still aren't eating them. Researchers from John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health studied students' eating habits and found nearly six out of 10 won't even touch a healthy food option on their plate (Olson).

And of course, there would be no point at all in making such healthy options available in the first place, if there is no effective way to persuade students to actually eat the stuff and much of it will end up going in the garbage. In short, there would seem to exist a serious disjunction between the concept of the healthy on the one hand and the concept of the desirable on the other—a disjunction that policymakers have apparently failed to take with adequate seriousness.

Are healthier school meals for kids even worth it?

Ariana Eunjung Cha of The Washington Post highlights:

in one study, a given student "left the lunch line one day carrying a tray full of what looked like a balanced meal: "chicken nuggets, some sort of mushy starch, green beans and milk. Exactly 13 minutes later she was done. The chicken nuggets and the starch were gone. But the green beans? Still there in a neat pile and headed straight for the trash" 

Among other things, that is a whole lot of wasted time, money, and effort. It would seem that from the perspective of many children, the healthy option in school lunches barely even registers as edible food at all, given how they treat it: they would seem to neatly divide up the lunch into the healthy and the less healthy parts, and then efficiently set aside the former for the garbage. This is a very serious issue, and unless it is addressed in a meaningful way, any further discussion about the value of healthier school lunches would clearly be rendered irrelevant. 

The problem, at least to some extent, would seem to be that school lunches are typically so poorly integrated in the first place. After all, in most normal meals, it is not possible to discretely separate out the healthy component from the unhealthy component; rather, the meal is generally called healthy exactly because it has a good integration of the different components within an actual single unit, as it were. This is a tactic that is commonly used by fast food companies used to mask the health risks typically associated with easting fast food. In their attempts to follow the letter of nutritional requirements, however, most school lunch programs would seem to neglect the concept of the meal as a whole, simply cobbling together various items that technically meet the requirements but are not on the balance appetizing as a whole to the children who are supposed to eat them. The result, then, could be called sadly predictable: children eat what they find appetizing, and throw out the rest; and the parts that are called healthy, due to their poor integration with the meal as a whole, are generally the parts that are thrown out.

Healthy school lunches in America: A critical reflection

The abysmal quality of school lunches within America becomes especially apparent when these lunches are compared with lunches elsewhere in the world. For example, one school in France where one "finds schoolchildren eating scallops, lamb skewers and a cheese course" (Siegel). Christian Storm of Business Insider notes that a typical meal in Italy may consist of "fish on arugula, pasta with tomato sauce, caprese salad, baguette, and grapes." Aside from the sheer difference in intrinsic quality, one also perceives a difference in the level of integration of the meals in question: it seems clear that the school lunches in France and Italy, unlike their counterparts in America, are actually conceptualized as unified meals, with the lines between the healthy and less healthy parts of the meal fading in light of the overall total quality of the meal as a whole. At a certain level, then, it can be suggested that the problem with American school lunches is a conceptual one.

The discussion above has revealed that to simple focus on the technical nutritional value of American school lunches does not get anywhere near addressing the real heart of the problem; and this problem can be seen in the simple fact that even when relatively healthier options are including in the lunches, many American children simply refuse to eat them. If the problem of school lunches is to be truly addressed in a meaningful way, then, the concept of nutritional value clearly needs to be supplemented by the concept of desirability. And this is the case because insofar as the lunches remain undesirable to students, any resources dedicated to improving nutritional value will simply end up being a waste. Addressing this issue will likely require the American government to invest in a considerably heavier way in school lunch programs across the nation, not least because it will be necessary for stakeholders to fundamentally reimagine how they think about the food in the first place. If such a paradigm shift does not take place, then it can fairly be concluded that the cause of healthier school lunches within America really is a lost one. 


In summary, this sample essay from Ultius has consisted of an analysis and discussion of the plight of healthier school lunch programs within America. After considering the First Lady's recent efforts in this regard, the essay turned to two key issues regarding American school meals—the issue of cost and the issue of desirability—and reached the conclusion that efforts to improve the nutritional value of school lunches across the nation are essentially just a waste of time, money, and attention insofar as efforts are not also taken to make the school lunches fundamentally desirable for students. This would require investments not only of money but also of imagination; and unless this can be done, it would be unreasonable to expect any meaningful improvements to be made regarding the real quality of school lunches within the nation.

Are you in need of a more sophisticated discussion of this subject? Let the Ultius thesis writers take care of you.

Works Cited

Art Institutes. "Unhealthy School Lunches Not Making the Grade." Author, n.d. Web. 6 Sep. 2016.

Cha, Ariana Eunjung. "Why the Healthy School Lunch Program Is in Trouble." Washington Post. 26 Aug. 2015. Web. 6 Sep. 2016.

Harrington, Elizabeth. "1M Kids Stop School Lunch due to Michelle Obama's Standards." Washington Times. 6 Mar. 2014. Web. 6 Sep. 2016.

Kelly Julie, and Jeff Stier. "Michelle Obama's 'Healthy School Lunches.'" National Review. 9 Sep. 2015. Web. 6 Sep. 2016.

Olson, Samantha. "Students Aren't Eating Healthy School Lunches, Despite Availability." Medical Daily. 17 Nov. 2014. Web. 6 Sep. 2016. 

Siegel, Bettina Elias. "The Real Problem with Lunch." New York Times. 15 Jan. 2016. Web. 6 Sep. 2016. 

Storm, Christian. "Here's How School Lunch in the US Stacks Up against What's Served in the Rest of the World." Business Insider. 9 Feb. 2015. Web. 6 Sep. 2016.



Ultius, Inc. "Sample Essay on Healthy School Lunches in America." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. Ultius Blog, 18 Sep. 2016. https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/sample-essay-on-healthy-school-lunches-in-america.html

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Ultius, Inc. (2016, September 18). Sample Essay on Healthy School Lunches in America. Retrieved from Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services, https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/sample-essay-on-healthy-school-lunches-in-america.html

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Ultius, Inc. "Sample Essay on Healthy School Lunches in America." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. September 18, 2016. https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/sample-essay-on-healthy-school-lunches-in-america.html.

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Ultius, Inc. "Sample Essay on Healthy School Lunches in America." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. September 18, 2016. https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/sample-essay-on-healthy-school-lunches-in-america.html.

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