Despite previous complaints from Bridgewater-Raritan High School students about the lack of fresh food in the cafeteria, now that federally mandated restrictions on cafeteria food have been lifted for the remainder of the year, many are split over whether going back is the right decision.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it was eliminating requirements set out through the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which will allow the district to add more proteins and grains back into its lunch menus for the remainder of the 2012-2013 school year.
Superintendent of Schools Michael Schilder has said that in the coming weeks, students will start seeing increased protein and grain portions on certain menu items where those calorie maximums will still not be compromised.
For senior Kaylyn Kavi, she actually liked the stricter regulations because there were more offerings.
“While the pizza and cookies got worse, now there’s a lot of new fancy good food like teriyaki chicken or steak pieces,” she said. “The salads are generally pretty good, though, so I’ve eaten more of them this year than before.”
Kavi said the French fries were probably the most unhealthy items offered, although they will always be hard to eliminate.
“I’ve always thought our school had pretty good and many choices of food compared to others,” she said. “I think the regulations were put in place for a reason and are actually working, and they shouldn’t back down just because kids complain.”
Senior Amulya Yalamanchili agreed that there was an improvement in the food options.
“[It was] especially in the variety of salads, which certainly motivates students to eat a bit healthier,” she said.
Senior Ryan Kishore said he actually believes it is OK to go back to the old regulations, so long as students are taught more about healthy eating.
“Teach self responsibility with respect to eating habits and then go back to the previous unregulated portioning,” he said. “Then students can have the background to make proper decisions regarding health. Teach it in the early health classes right before students can start choosing, such as before intermediate school and again before high school.”
But for many students, the biggest concern was the smaller portions that came with the regulations.
“Now I won’t have to buy two lunches half of the time,” said senior Humphrey Wang. “One slice of pizza is not a lunch.”
And senior Parul Mital said the students should be able to get what they want so there is no wasted money.
“The portions are definitely not enough,” Mital said. “I think the school should give the kids more of what they want and less of what they don’t want because we don’t eat what we don’t want. Increasing portions of vegetables and stuff doesn’t help, it just adds to the wasted money.”
Yalamanchili said she believes students have been gravitating toward the food they want anyway, probably skipping some of the healthier options that the regulations sought to promote.
“Students will still gravitate toward the foods that appeal to them, healthy or not,” she said. “Although many students can agree that removal of the regulations is a step in the right direction, it is hoped that variety will still be maintained and that quality of food will not be further reduced.”
“The main complaint of students still seems to be the very small portions of food, so the greatest demand regards a return to larger portion sizes,” she added.
But for some students, they would actually be happy to see a mixture of old regulations and new.
“I don’t think they should get rid of the new regulations entirely,” senior Megan DeMichele said. “If they want the students at Bridgewater-Raritan to eat better, they should provide the students with healthier choices instead of smaller portions. They are healthy enough and need bigger portions.”
And junior Abby Delgado said she believes exchanging out more of the junk food offered in the cafeteria would be the way to make kids healthier, rather than instituting all the regulations.
“I think that maybe we wouldn’t need to have such small portions if the food options were healthier,” she said. “The food in the cafeteria is still unhealthy for the most part.”
“Maybe if they exchanged more of the junk food for healthier options, we wouldn’t need these kinds of regulations,” she added.
But senior Shradha Mamidi said it is important to provide the right plan for all different students.
“I think it would be better if they do a mix of both old and new regulations,” she said. “The school should provide adequate portions to most students.”
“It would be best if there was some sort of system that would provide different plans suited to different students,” she added.