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Debate over fast food vs. school lunch rages on

Studies find few health advantages to dining in cafeteria line

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Which came first: the chicken or the controversy?

Ever since “USA Today” first reported back in 2009 that the nation’s fast-food chains have higher quality and safety standards for the meat they use than that used for the National School Lunch Program, the debate over fast food vs. school lunches has escalated.

According to the National Education Agency, while the U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations for meat sent to schools maintain government safety standards, the government requirements have fallen behind the stricter regulations of fast-food chains and other large retailers. “Fast-food chains test their meat five to 10 times more often than the USDA for bacteria and would reject meat that the USDA deems safe for consumption,” the NEA wrote.

“Fast-food chains test their meat five to 10 times more often than the USDA for bacteria and would reject meat that the USDA deems safe for consumption,” the NEA wrote.

Even today, the debate continues over the National School Lunch Program. While First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative aimed to help kids eat healthier and provide more access to food for low-income children, many critics pointed out that the program costs $12.7 billion to maintain, even while 1.2 million children stopped eating lunch at school. Congress is currently considering repealing the program.

Of course, many students don’t need statistics to convince them that fast food is more appetizing than school lunches.

“I mean, I don’t think that the school food has roaches, I just don’t really like it that much,” freshman Tacovia Ingram said. “It’s the same thing over and over again. It’s boring.”

Although bringing their own lunch is an option, most students find they don’t have the time — or initiative — to pack anything.

“I buy the school lunch because I don’t have time to make my own lunch,” junior Ricardo Reina said. “But I feel safe eating the school lunch because, after all my years, I’ve never had any issues with my immune system. I haven’t really been sick all that often.”

But the main question for most students and staff is: Should BHS follow the lead of other North Texas high schools and offer fast food as an option at lunch?

Red Oak High School, for example, decided to opt out of the federal lunch program this year due to a sharp decline in sales and serve fast food in its cafeteria.

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“Fast food is way better than our school lunches,” freshman Melody Henry said. “It tastes better, [and] more people would buy it. I freaking love fast food.”

Dietician Brian Ball said the nutritional quality of fast food and school lunches is pretty similar.

“For overall health, [school lunches are] not the healthiest food, so you’re not gaining a lot of valuable nutrients from the food,” Ball said. “In that sense, I would say it’s not dangerous to eat but you’re not getting anything out of it.”

While the school does not appear to be moving in the direction of offering fast food anytime soon, many students and staff are on board with the idea of offering more options.

“I do think there can be changes made [when it comes to food quality] so the food can be more enticing and delicious,” library assistant Elisha Bracy said. “The school lunches aren’t bad, it’s just that I like homemade meals or I like to dine out.”

And some can’t help but wish for their favorite foods to arrive on campus.

“I really want some Chick-fil-A,” sophomore Mia Thompson said.

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