Why School Lunches Are Going Totally Local

The history of school lunch is not commonly recognized for featuring very many concessions to contemporary culinary fads. Seasons pass, people change, and technology marches onward, yet make your way to any modern grade school cafeteria and there’s a good chance that you’ll find the same half-frozen corn dogs and fruit cocktail cups that you remember from your own childhood lunches.

 

The way that the modern school lunch looks is largely a reflection of the policies that govern its funding and distribution. Historically, the idea that free meals should be provided to underprivileged school-age children has been a controversial one. This means that statewide hot lunch programs are by and large living examples of uneasy bipartisan compromise. Everything from the polystyrene trays to the waterlogged peas show how the budgetary allotments for school lunches allow for little more than the bare minimum.

 

School lunches have continued on in this way for many decades, but there are signs that there is change on the horizon. Last week, the New York City Department of Education pledged that it would begin working in the upcoming months to incorporate more local meat and produce in school lunches. It will start by introducing a cheeseburger that will be madeĀ entirely from beef sourced from local New York farms.

 

All this might seem like a lot of fuss for what amounts to a relatively small change, but it may be an indication that the public attitude towards school lunch is in flux. Only time will tell what this means for soggy fish sticks and tiny cartons of milk.

 

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