Education

Public School Lunch Photo Shared On Facebook Has Parents Concerned

Courtesy of Chris Vangellow

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Kendall Tietz Education Reporter
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  • Photos of cafeteria lunches served at an upstate New York public school district have gone viral on Facebook, sparking community outrage.
  • A father posted photos of the lunches provided by his children’s school cafeteria, garnering national attention and frustration among parents concerned about the small portions and quality of the food.
  • “Not everyone can send their child with a home packed lunch or extra money to buy more than what is initially provided,” father Chris Vangellow told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “For some students, those school meals may be all they eat in a day. This is not enough. This is a failure to those children. Something needs to change.”

Photos of cafeteria lunches served at an upstate New York public school district have gone viral on Facebook, sparking community outrage.

A father posted photos of the lunches provided by his children’s school cafeteria, garnering national attention and frustration among parents concerned about the small portions and quality of the food.

All four of Chris Vangellow’s children are students in the Parishville-Hopkinton Central School District (PHCSD) in Hopkinton, New York, and they’ve sent him pictures of their school lunches over the past few months.

Vangellow publicly posted a picture of his son’s lunch to his Facebook page on Jan. 12, showing four small chicken nuggets, carrots, rice and a carton of milk. He said when another one of his children went through the lunch line, “he didn’t even see any dry tasteless carrots available.”

Courtesy of Chris Vangellow

Courtesy of Chris Vangellow

“The entire point of my post was to bring attention to this issue because some students rely on the school meals to eat each day,” Vangellow told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Not everyone can send their child with a home packed lunch or extra money to buy more than what is initially provided. For some students, those school meals may be all they eat in a day. This is not enough. This is a failure to those children. Something needs to change.”

Vangellow’s children have complained that since the lunches are now free, the portion sizes have dropped, he said on Facebook. “I got this photo today. It really is ridiculous,” he said in the post. (RELATED: California Will Remove Aztec, Ashe Chants From Its Ethnic Studies Curriculum Following Legal Challenge)

“I cooked for toddlers at Daycare for a couple years and this is toddler portions,” one commenter said.

Another commenter said the portions are regulated and that it “has nothing to do with the school.”

“I work in a school, it’s 2oz protein, 2oz grain, 1/2 c fruit, 1/2c veg for elementary and middle school kids,” another commenter said. “High school is a little more. It has nothing to do with the school and/or their budget.”

Courtesy of Chris Vangellow

Courtesy of Chris Vangellow

Multiple commenters said prisoners eat higher-quality food and more appropriately-sized portions compared to the school-provided lunch.

“It’s disgusting that prisoners get fed better than children in some school districts do,” one comment said.

“Our prisoners get fed better than our kids in schools and elderly in nursing homes,” another comment said. “THAT’S the problem.”

On Jan. 14, the PHCSD superintendent, Dr. William E. Collins, issued a statement in response to Vangellow’s post, recognizing parents’ concern while defending the cafeteria due to restrictions and rules.

“The concerns expressed clearly resonated with students and parents as evidenced by the number of comments and shares,” the superintendent said. “In fairness to the cafeteria, students are allowed one more serving of fruits or vegetables and one additional nugget than appeared in the photograph; however, this doesn’t alter the message that many students and parents are dissatisfied with school lunches.”

Collins told the DCNF that the amount of food students are given has not changed since it became free at the beginning of the pandemic.

Courtesy of Chris Vangellow

Courtesy of Chris Vangellow

He said some of the pictures were “a little misleading,” because “there are more options than what were on some of the trays.” But, he said he understands that “they’re unhappy that it isn’t, you know, as appetizing as they’d like it to be … I can’t disagree.”

Courtesy of Chris Vangellow

Courtesy of Chris Vangellow

Collins said he was working with the cafeteria manager to “address the dissatisfaction” and announced the creation of a group consisting of concerned students, parents, board members and the district Wellness Committee to discuss new options.

“This group will explore ways to make school meals more appetizing while still meeting the strict USDA requirements of the National School Lunch Program,” Collins said. “The amounts and the makeup of those meals is regulated, so nothing’s changed there.”

“There’s not a whole lot that maybe can be done outside of the framework of the National School Lunch Program because they have guidelines that have to be followed in quantity, sizes, portions, but perhaps there are things that we can do about the quality of the food,” Collins said.

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