This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
The USDA’s universal feeding program ensures that every Philadelphia public school student is eligible for free breakfast and lunch during the school year. The program gives students who may be coming from impoverished and/or food insecure households access to quality food.
The District has made efforts to improve school food. There are now 107 schools with full-service kitchens, and 141 satellite locations that offer prepackaged foods. But what do students actually think about what’s on the menu?
To get a sense of what students think about these meals, the Notebook asked students from AMY Northwest Middle School and Carver High School of Engineering & Science to give their opinions about school lunch. Here’s what they had to say.
1. Azad Solomon, AMY Northwest, 7th grade
“I don’t like the spaghetti. The spaghetti doesn’t have enough sauce on it. They don’t put sauce on it and sometimes it is hard. I like the parmesan chicken. I like it because it fills me up and it tastes good.”
2. Geliz Torres, Amy Northwest, 7th grade
About the pizza: “The cheese is fake. The pepperoni is fake. It’s just bad!”
3. Caseem Henderson, Amy Northwest, 7th grade
“I don’t like how the lunch is frozen and they have to heat them up an hour before lunch.”
4. Cyan Fireall, Carver High School of Engineering & Science, 10th grade
“It’s not enough most of the time. Sometimes we get a little bit of food, and it will get me through my next three classes, then I am like, ‘I need to eat again.’”
5. Nia Caldwell, Carver High School of Engineering & Science, 10th grade
“Sometimes, it’s just food that you wouldn’t want to eat on your own. I wouldn’t eat it myself and I wouldn’t prefer for nobody else to eat it. That’s why I bring my lunch everyday.”
6. Jordan Buie, Carver High School of Engineering & Science, 12th grade
“In the past years the food used to be terrible, [but] now, they’re experimenting with this stuff called salt and pepper. They’re using spices now.”
7. Shanaya Samuels, Amy Northwest, 7th grade
“I like the corn dogs and the cheeseburgers and the salads because they taste enticing.”
8. Tiymeen Jones, AMY Northwest, 8th grade
About lunch: “It’s hot when you want it. And if it is not hot the lunch lady will warm it up for you. It’s good.”
9. Monier Elmardi, Carver High School of Engineering & Science, 12th grade
“When they have vegetables, usually their vegetables are really soggy and you can tell they were probably frozen for a while. If they improve the quality of that people would probably eat them. I [would] definitely eat them if they were higher quality.”
10. Teryn Dark, AMY Northwest, 7th grade
“Sometimes the food doesn’t taste real.’
11. Siaka Lemailloux, Carver High School of Engineering & Science, 10th grade
"It’s a very different kind of taste. If you were to come in here and you had an idea what a school lunch was, and you came in here and had the lunch, it would be different from your average lunch."