Parents Complain About Poor School Lunches Leaving Kids Hungry

Parents and students are outraged with a district after reports of a lacking school lunch being serviced surfaces.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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School lunches have evolved quite a bit over the last few decades. Long gone are the days of greasy sheet pizza with a side of fries in the cafeteria served next to syrup-coated fruit. Thanks to an initiative enacted during the Obama era, school lunch is supposedly healthier than ever. Sure, a health-conscientious meal consisting of apple slices, carrots sticks, and a slice of cheese might be sufficient for a grown adult looking to mind their diet, but does the same hold true for young elementary-aged children? According to one school district, the answer is yes. 

Wadewitz Elementary School is part of the Racine Unified School district located along Lake Michigan just a little south of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Serving more than 500 students, the low-income status of the majority of the school’s students qualifies most children for free school lunch. However, parents are now speaking out against the poor standards under which the school hands out what they call adequate meals to students after multiple reports about a recent lunch serving pretzels cheese and carrots sticks to students left parents outraged.

One mother spoke with The Journal Times on April 8th about the skimpy school lunch being dished out at the elementary school. The mother told the local news outlet that she was trying to “spread the word” about what her children were served for lunch last week. She claims that her kids came home complaining of hunger. Initially, the mother assumed her children just did not eat enough of what they were served by the school. But after some digging, the mother found out that her kids did in fact eat their entire lunch that day – it was just lacking nutrients and sufficient calories. “My kids came home starving and told me they had carrots, apple slices, and three slices of cheese for LUNCH,” she said.

The elementary school wasn’t the only public school in the district that served the meager lunch that day. Eighth-grader Leah Nilo shared a video on TikTok and Facebook showcasing her lackluster school lunch meal as well. Opening the packaged container, her lunch consisted of processed sliced American cheese that left a residue on a handful of baby carrots. The lunch was accompanied by a single-serve package of pretzel Goldfish. Supposed to be considered the school’s “hot lunch”, her post contained puke emoji’s depicting how gross the carrots appeared.

school lunch

Speaking with TMJ4 News, Nilo also reported that this wasn’t a one-time occurrence this year with her school lunch. But it seems this might have been the last straw infuriating both parents and students to speak up against the state of meals served in Racine, Wisconsin. In a Facebook post, the Racine Unified School District acknowledged concerned parents. 

On Friday, the district responded to concerns about the school lunch saying they “missed the mark” serving the cheese and stale carrot trio. Without directly apologizing, they announced the district was working to correct the issue going forward, but they pointed to challenges from supply chains as a bigger issue the school now faces. Furthermore, they may have infuriated parents further when they included hashtags accompanying the post that read #wheresthebeef and #saycheese.

While it was likely in poor taste for the district to make a joke in regards to students’ health and nutrition, the mention of the supply chain issue is something districts across the nation have been dealing with throughout the school year. While students continued to receive free school lunch in droves during the pandemic, food supply chain shortages disrupted the effort in major ways. Many districts like Racine have reported similar stories as schools scramble to find sufficient food to feed their students.