Lunches at Vashon contribute to healthier students
By Milo Carr, Reporter
“Oh, I didn’t have breakfast this morning,” is a phrase commonly heard at the high school and thus easily dismissed, but how healthy is it? One out of six students in the U.S. are malnourished, but in what ways does this statistic apply to the high school?
For the past 12 years, the high school has provided nutritious meals for students, as well as take-home bags of food placed discreetly by the counselors’ offices. Our school seems to deviate from the norm, with 92.5 percent of students who filled out the nutrition survey sent by the Riptide reported having no diet related illnesses.
To the 7.5 percent with diet related illnesses — the majority reported anemia — NeighborCare Health Educator Alison Delateur has a few solutions.
“The best way to prevent malnutrition is to eat a healthy and balanced diet including lots of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, dairy, and lean protein,” says Delateur. “Kids should also avoid eating foods high in saturated fats; things like butter, sodium, salt, and added sugars.”
The high school follows the “My Plate” outline. The large salad bar in the lunch room includes a range of healthy toppings, fruit, and protein-packed main courses. If you skipped the fruit basket or forgot to grab baby carrots, the dedicated lunch ladies will always remind you to take some locally sourced produce. The majority of students agree; when it comes to public school lunches, Vashon excels.
“The school lunches here are a lot better than the school lunches in Britain,” said junior Hamish Currie. “The thing I remember about Britain is grey [being] the general colour of food.”
Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean that students actually make healthy choices based on the food provided. Currie doesn’t often eat school lunches, but he does notice few students eat all their vegetables.
“I see my friends lunches and they tend to get what looks like a balanced meal, but they don’t really eat the salad,” Currie said.
This observation seems to be an exception to the general trend, however, the majority of students who eat school lunches claim that both they and their friends eat their salads, often because of the quality of the food. Senior Adriana Becerra, who reports eating school lunches nearly every day, describes the salad bars at the high school as diverse and tasty, especially when compared to other public school districts. Becarra, who has one kidney, can’t eat things with high salt, and has had to cut back on carbohydrates.
“Vashon offers a great variety of nutritious foods, especially when compared to other public schools throughout the country,” Delatuer said. “Ultimately it all depends on what you pick to put on your plate.”
Still, it’s not always clear what the menu offers for dietary restrictions based on allergies.
“I believe we have gluten free options. I’m not sure what our vegan, gluten free, dairy free options look like all the time,” said school principal Danny Rock. “I know that Lisa [Cyra] does work to have vegetarian options [and] … in terms of other dietary restrictions I do think we work to accommodate those, I’m just not sure what they look like.”
While there is some work to be done to address all dietary restrictions, the school’s lunches continue to provide nutritious meals, ensuring the health of more than 500 students. To the few who worry about malnutrition, Delatuer encourages students facing fatigue, weak muscles, lack of energy, irritability, and frequent blood sugar crashes to schedule a visit to Neighborcare for a checkup.
“At my old school, … you could have a salad but it wasn’t a huge variety of fruit and things you can put on your salad,” Becarra said. “They cater a lot more to people who have things like [only having one kidney].”
In regards to whether or not school lunches cater to the dietary constraints some students face, Becarra joins the majority with her strong belief that the schools meals cater to all.
While the school boasts healthy lunches and vegetarian options, the only constant gluten free option is salad, and as Delatuer pointed out, a salad isn’t the single best option. Grains are critical to student health; according to MyPlate, 30 percent of a student’s plate should be grains. Many school lunches, are without any main sources of protein, as seen in Pasta Monday and Pizza Fridays- two regular lunches that are often sans red meat.