RENSSELAER — The federal government’s free lunch choices aren’t sitting well with Rensselaer Central High School students.
A handful of students have gone on their Facebook pages and Instagram accounts to provide visual depictions of what they constitute poor lunch selections.
But Rensselaer Central School Corporation Superintendent Curtis Craig has provided his own pictures on the RCSC Facebook page, displaying lunches that look markedly different from the students’.
While a student may show a picture of a couple of tacos, a choice of dessert and a carton of milk, Craig’s selection includes vegetable choices, refried beans, a salad and a fruit cup or applesauce.
“One student who posted a picture on social media didn’t get all she could have gotten,” Craig said. “What they are posting online isn’t all that is available to students.”
Craig’s photos, which were uploaded to Facebook throughout December with more to come in the new year, not only shows more choices but healthier choices as well should students decide to go that route.
“Food services does a tremendous job,” he said. “It’s somewhat different this year for the students because they now get free breakfast and free lunch.”
Because lunches are free, the federal government has placed requirements on the food choices. There are saturated fat requirements, salt intake requirements and students are allowed just 750-850 calories per lunch. The corporation would not get reimbursed for providing free lunches if it did not meet the requirements put forth by the federal government, Craig added.
“Processed foods have a lot of salt content, so we have to watch what we make available,” Craig said.
According to one RCSC teacher, West Central High School officials have worked around processed foods by offering homemade meals. That has led to far fewer complaints by the students there.
Before the arrival of COVID-19, RCHS students were allowed to pay for the chance at dipping into a salad bar or a la carte items. But those aren’t expected to return until COVID is eradicated from the corporation’s schools.
Craig added that the high school does not have cafeteria space — students eat in the lecture halls after they receive their food — which is a concern in the age of COVID.
If students do not enjoy what RCHS provides with its federally-funded free lunch program, they are encouraged to bring their own lunches, Craig said.
Students don’t seem to be complaining about the free breakfast choices, which features comfort food favorites such as cinnamon rolls, cereal and toast, sausage muffins, etc. Again, the selections must fall under federal guidelines in order to be a free breakfast.