Chicken Patties, Again?

Evaluating the nutrition of a school lunch

Students crowd the lunch line, their stomachs growling and mouths watering at the prospect of food. Heat radiates from the freshly thawed spicy chicken patties and the lunchroom is hot with anticipation. These breaded chicken patties are placed in a bun and served alongside a few sweet potato fries, a pear, and a carton of milk. Chicago Public Schools will be serving this meal for lunch today to over 100,000 high school students.

School lunch has always been the subject of much ridicule and teasing amongst students. Jokes about mystery meat and the stereotypical poor quality of cafeteria food are widespread and can be seen in every movie that features a school lunchroom. In reality, schools are trying to provide all of their students with a cost effective meal that will fill them up and stay within budget. This formula feeds a lot of students, but sometimes leaves health out of the equation.

As students grow older, they learn more about diet, exercise, and how to take care of themselves. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Having a healthy diet is key to prevention, as is getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight.

Students, especially those in high school, are thinking twice about what they eat on a daily basis. Jordan Jackson ‘15 did not think the school lunches were healthy, but said, “[School lunch] is free and it’s not really convenient to go off campus when it’s really cold.”

Barbara Ferrari is a Hearth Health Coordinator at the Ingalls Wellness Center in Flossmoor. Ferrari was shown pictures taken at Jones College Prep of multiple lunches served in the cafeteria.


Ferrai said, “A sweet potato is one of the best vegetables we could eat until we cut it up and deep fry it. This is very highly processed.” Ferrari thought the bun, breaded patty, and fries contributed too many carbohydrates for this to be a balanced meal. Ferrari also suggested replacing the chocolate milk with a healthier alternative, like almond milk.

This meal is from the same day as the previous one, but it is the vegetarian option. Ferrari said, “It would be really cool to have peanut butter but the instead [of jelly] have an apple or apple slices. Instead of sugar, you have fiber and nutrients.”


Ferrari said, “A quarter of our plate is supposed to be a starch or grain, but they kind of overdid it on the croutons.”



Ferrai said, “I would like to see the serving of salad much bigger. The salad should take up as much room as the pizza.” Ferrari was pleased to see the beans as an additional source of protein and fiber, but mentioned the issue of salt and high-fructose corn syrup.

Overall, Ferrari believes there is a lot of room for improvement. Ferrari said, “What are we doing to our kids? What are we doing to blood pressures, obesity, and cholesterol levels? We are doing a disservice by feeding kids things that look like this.”  Ferrari recommends for students to check out, the new dietary guidelines that replaced the food pyramid.