School lunches versus brought lunches


A standard lunch at Northwest High School’s cafeteria. The subject of brought lunches versus school lunches is a source of controversy among the student body.

You shuffle into the cafeteria, crowded with people and you search for your table. Some of your friends have the Styrofoam trays of school lunch in front of them; some have their food neatly arranged in a lunch tote. The question has been raised several times: which one is better, bagged or bought?

If cost is first, the facts are simple. School lunch is $2.85 per day. This adds up to $513 per year, if you eat school lunch every day. That adds up to $2,109.00 total for eating the school lunch for all four years of high school. It is on average $4.82 to bring your own lunch from home every day. This makes it about $891.70 per year with a grand total of $3,566.80 to bring your own lunch for all of high school.

The clear winner in cost is school lunches.

Next, nutrition must be considered. Lunches brought from home are based solely on what the parent or child making it wants in the lunch. This means that there is no required standard for what is in the home lunches, unlike with Guilford County School lunches.

All Guilford County lunches are created based on the nutritional standards put into place by Michelle Obama’s healthy eating program in 2012.

“We have to plan these out a year ahead of time,” GCS dietician Jamie Martin said. “We have to get approved [by] those guidelines. We can only serve potatoes ‘this many’ times a week.”

According to Martin, this means standards such as: ½ cup of dark green vegetables a week, 1 and ¼ cup of red vegetables, and so on are being placed upon each student’s lunch. Only 5 cups of milk per week can be served. There also is a required calorie count range of 750-850 per meal.

For the most part, this is good, because this means that the school lunches are relatively healthy. However, if a student has dietary needs beyond the norm, like athletes that might need a higher calorie count, they are not going to get that from school lunches.

This debacle is on even grounds with nutrition, because while the school lunches are held to a standard, this standard could be lacking for certain students, making it necessary for some to bring lunches.

It must be taken into account, though, that by supporting school lunches, the student population is single-handedly funding the program. According to GCS guidelines, the school lunch program is entirely self-funded. That $2.85 is paying for the food itself and the costs of labor and even running the cafeteria.

The students’ opinions, however, are final.

“I bring my lunch because I know what’s in it if I bring it,” freshman Myrrhn Sanchez said. “I feel like there’s not a lot of options in the cafeteria, especially if you’re a vegetarian.”

Yet again, it is clearly visible that school lunches continually fall behind the accessibility of that of home-packed lunches.

“I feel like they could be healthier,” sophomore Savannah McCracken said. “I think they could be healthier and taste better.”

While the school lunches are mostly more nutritious, cheaper and support the local economy, the students overwhelmingly are against them due to tastes and dietary needs.