Eating healthy: How much are you willing to pay?

Post date: Mar 30, 2017 11:52:20 AM

By: Megan Cichon, Entertainment Editor

Posted March 30, 2017

Students will go through the lunch line and select what they’d like. Maybe today pizza is on the menu, so the student grabs milk, pizza, and a salad. When they arrive at the register, the lunch lady tells them they must take a fruit, or they will be charged extra. But why should you be charged more for taking less? I was wondering the same thing, so I decided to investigate. This led me to Cindy Fassbender, the director of the lunch program here at Slinger.

The Child Reauthorization Law states that a complete meal is reflective of the guidelines set in place by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) on a website called Choose My Plate. Most students in Slinger are quite familiar with this concept, but incase you’ve forgotten what it all entails, allow me to refresh you:

Choose Myplate is all about building a healthier eating style, and therefore reducing your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. Myplate has replaced the Food Pyramid to tell you what you should, and shouldn’t be eating. Here’s what you need for a full, healthy meal:

    • 1 cup of fruit
    • 1 cup of vegetables
    • 1 ounce of grains (Approx. 1 slice of bread)
    • 1 ounce of protein
    • 1 cup of dairy
    • Less than 6 teaspoons of oil

Slinger High School, like many other schools, has a contract with the USDA that requires our lunch program to give students a meal according to the guidelines on Choose My Plate. So what happens when a student doesn’t want to take a “full” meal? The item is entered as “Ala Carte”. Keep in mind, that the extra cost will vary by what the student takes on that particular day and what’s on the menu. There isn’t a set in stone additional charge that is used when a student doesn’t take a fruit, vegetable, or otherwise. Let’s go back to the pizza example I started off with to clarify:

    • If a student takes a milk, pizza, and salad: they’ll be charged extra because they’ll be missing the fruit portion of their meal.
    • If a student takes a milk, two pizzas, and a salad: they’ll be charged for two lunches because they took two pizzas.
    • Here’s the kicker: if a student takes a milk, salad, and fruit, they will not be charged more or less, because the items the student has taken counts for a full meal.
    • In addition, students on free/reduced lunch absolutely cannot take additional items. If they do, it’s confiscated, and thrown away due to contamination concerns. Students on free/reduced lunch are however, charged extra if they do not take a fruit; not charging them would be discriminatory.

The contract Slinger High School signed with the USDA provides the food service with money. If the lunch staff at Slinger doesn’t charge the students who don’t take a fruit more money, the contract with the USDA will be suspended, and the money to sustain the lunch program will come out of the pockets of taxpayers.

Just because the lunch staff enforces the rules however, doesn’t mean they completely agree with it. I told Mrs. Fassbender a story about a student who’d gone around collecting unwanted bananas from students who’d taken them to avoid being charged more money. At the end of the lunch period, he’d collected thirty or so bananas that would eventually see the garbage can. She told me about how Slinger had considered starting a Sharing Table program. The program enables students to give lunch items away that they don’t want, and then other students can come take it instead. This idea was mostly scrapped, after the realization that the food students would give away could be contaminated or tampered with. Compost bins cost thousands of dollars that Slinger simply cannot afford.

While the law in place does make a hearty attempt to force children to eat healthier, I believe that there is another option that won’t disrupt the pocketbooks of parents, and won’t also stuff our landfills with unwanted food.

For more information about Slinger’s lunch program, visit:

For my information about Choose My Plate, visit:

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of Slinger High School or the Slinger School District.