Districtwide School Lunch Survey Allows Students to Get Heard
By Shari Gillis
Students Are Adapting Well to New Dietary Guidelines
In 2012, the Child Nutrition Department at LVUSD conducted a school lunch survey to see how the USDA’s new dietary guidelines affected how the students felt about hot lunches in the school cafeteria. After getting the survey results, Child Nutrition made some changes to the menu and added some new menu items.
Then, in 2014 the USDA implemented even more new guidelines to the school lunch program. All grains served are to be at least 51% whole grain, sodium was reduced by 5-10%, and saturated fat must be limited to 10%. In addition, the schools will be assessed for compliance every three years instead of five.
Because of the newest federal changes, and the updates to the menu since the last survey, the Child Nutrition Director, Waleska Cannon, RD, MBA, decided it was time to conduct another survey. Students at each school in the district answered five questions asking about the frequency they bought hot lunches, the overall satisfaction with the food, their feelings about the foodservice staff, favorite menu items, and complaints. They were the same questions asked in 2012, so an accurate comparison could be made. The surveys were given to 25 random students at each school ranging from first grade to high school seniors.
Results of the survey were positive overall. The amount of high school students eating lunch in the cafeteria every day more than doubled since 2012, but there was little change in how much they like the school lunches and how they feel about the foodservice staff. Almost all the middle school students surveyed eat in the cafeteria at least once a week and they like the lunches more than the students surveyed five years ago. The elementary school students eat in the cafeteria a little less often than they did in 2012, but they like the school lunches equally as well.
Papa John’s Pizza, Pick Up Stix and Subway remain the favorite hot lunches served. Although parents might feel those are not optimal choices for their children, what most don’t know is that the items from those restaurants are made specifically for LVUSD and meet all the federal guidelines for sodium, fat, and whole grain. Even the pizza served is made with a whole grain crust and low fat cheese. A middle and high school student favorite is the Spicy Chicken Sandwich made on the premises.
Child Nutrition went over the results of the top complaints from the students. The comments are taken very seriously. There were some complaints about the price of the meals; however, the hot lunches have remained the same price for the past four years. Several students mention that the food is soggy. The foodservice staff will be adding more venting points in the plastic that covers the meals so that less moisture is absorbed by the food. A few students mentioned long cafeteria lines. The cafeteria managers are very aware that the students have a specific amount of time to eat and do their best to keep the lines moving. Having separate lines for hot lunch and grab n’ go have reduced wait times. The lines move very fast and most students have been served within 15 minutes. The cafeterias offer many healthy options to students; however, some still feel that more can be done. Child Nutrition is striving to make meals that are healthy, yet appealing to every student. They make sure the hot lunches meet federal guidelines and offer the students a nutritionally balanced meal.
Waleska Cannon has started a Nutrition Committee to involve and engage parents in the development of new recipes and menu ideas for the students. The committee met for the first time on April 21st and will be meeting again in May. Please call the Child Nutrition Office for more information at (818) 225-8625 if you would like to join the committee.