Free Food, Hungry Students – What’s Wrong With the Free Lunch and Breakfast at MHS Schools?

by Jacqueline Lu ’25

Source: Jacqueline Lu ’25

Published Oct. 16th, 2021

This year, a government-sponsored Seamless Summer Option (SSO) is providing free breakfasts and lunches to all MTSD students. But while it sounds like an agreeable and convenient option, students and their parents have actually not enjoyed the change. 

Rather than feeding school communities, more students are either bringing their own lunches or throwing out the free offerings. Ethan Daniels ‘25 explained, “The cold lunch is a 4/10, and the taste of the sandwich was pretty generic and tasteless. The turkey felt pretty bland, and the bread is not good bread, almost the bare minimum of a sandwich.” Yueyue (Michelle) Li ‘25 “thought [the lunches] would be very good, but it wasn’t,” so she “just brought [her] own lunch after” the first day of school.

The dissatisfaction with the food sparked heated discussions on Facebook among parents, prompting many to voice their concerns at a Board of Education meeting on September 28. One parent shared his daughter’s complaints that her food at LMS was either sugar-loaded or grease-loaded, and that students wasted a lot of food. Another parent said her two kids consumed expired carrots and milk, leading her to worry about their safety. 

One mother even brought her child’s lunch sandwich to the meeting to show what students were fed every day. She pointed out that in the first week, there wasn’t even cheese in the sandwich.

Chartwells, the global foodservice company providing food for the SSO, responded that they faced many extreme difficulties like “major supply chain issues” and “a nationwide labor shortage” that reduced the company to “half man-power.”

Jim Gillespie, a Chartwells district manager, said the company was doing the best it could given its limited resources and strict SSO guidelines that limit portion sizes, total calories, and the weight of distributed meat and sandwiches. 

Chartwells also noted that all food served in schools is USDA-inspected, forcing them to rule out the possibility of purchasing food from local farms and restaurants. Gillespie claimed that Chartwells can adjust tracks to serve higher quality food, but at an additional cost to the district. 

In a post-meeting email, MTSD Superintendent Mary E. Mcloughlin promised parents schools would soon provide upgraded ingredients, more food varieties, and hot lunch options, as well as closely monitor product expiration dates.

Since then, schools have attempted to deliver, serving more than one offering each day including hot meals like chicken patties, chicken tenders, and chicken nuggets. After tasting the new lunches, Jennifer Tian ‘24 said they were “not exactly Michelin star-quality, but definitely an improvement from the same meal every day.”

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