Research – ShaquilleOatmeal

Should You Be Eating School Lunches?

School lunch is the most look forward to time of the day for students. All they think about during morning classes is getting to devour some food while socializing with some friends. Students can either bring their own lunches from home or buy one of the several options provided by school lunch programs. Before choosing which lunch to eat for the day, everyone should understand the benefits of what they are choosing. Homemade lunches provide great variety and are commonly thought to be better and healthier than school lunches. Arguably, homemade lunches, given their great variety, are much worse for students because of the dangerous extent of that same variety. Students aren’t forced to pack a nutritionally beneficial lunch, but rather they choose whatever they want from home which can result in unhealthy diets. School lunches, on the other hand, are supplied with nutritional standards that make sure all meals hold daily nutrients while also supplying great variety. Promoting the consumption of modern school lunches will benefit student health and education much better than modern homemade lunches because of the well-balanced variety given by schools and lack of nutritional standards for homemade lunches.

The school lunch provided to students and teachers holds a bad reputation from it’s past, but counterintuitively, it’s due for a new look such as “Nutritionally Beneficial” . Through studies and surveys, the claims in favor of healthy and well-balanced school lunches overrule the poor standards of unhealthy/ unbalanced homemade lunches. 

Modern school lunches have been aimed to provide the best possible benefits packed into one meal. They’re not the old slabs of pizza with some tater tots as they were a decade ago, but they present themselves as a variety with a goal to keep students nutrition balanced. It’s not an argument enjoyed by society because of the influence past decades has on students. Since parents received the horrendous lunches years ago they probably categorize modern school lunches the same. These modern school lunches have been experimented on and worked on to the point that the standards for a school lunch nowadays is much stricter than a homemade lunch since the aim is to provide all the food groups and healthy options to students.

An argument persuading people to think higher of school lunches and lower of homemade lunches sounds absurd. Surely, there will be reasons behind parents and students thinking homemade lunches are more nutritionally beneficial than school lunches, but that can actually be refuted. The argument is here for a new possibility, which is, trusting that these school lunch programs can properly feed one or one’s kids in a nutritious way. Leaning students, teachers and parents off their opinions can be difficult, but supplying rebuttals will win them over and provide  them a new look at school lunches.

These school lunches are commonly thought to be school prison food. Lots like to present their opinion on the food as terribly unhealthy and trash. These opinions are old-minded and cause faulty attributions to be given to school lunch programs. If students give school lunches more opportunity than they could see the major benefits they supply. Margaret Brown, NRDC’s staff attorney, who works on presenting new ideas for school lunches says, “Salad bars are usually a huge hit because kids like to choose what they eat,” in NRDC’s article “Getting a Better School Lunch.” The fresh ideas being incorporated into school lunch programs are the way to winning over these students who hold strong opinions. The less processed foods and given the more variety is going to be key to exchanging the reputation of school lunches to a much more deservable name.

School lunches to the government are extremely important and worked on each year to improve. The government funds the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) which works yearly to better the food nutritionally in schools. The article, “Eating School Lunch Is Associated with Higher Diet Quality among Elementary School Students” on ClinicalKey says that, “Findings from this study showed that students who ate breakfast and lunch from school consumed diets higher in dairy-rich foods while limiting calories from solid fats and added sugars, compared with students eating meals from home.” Studies are proving that students who choose the school option are better dieted over students with home made lunches. With the government funding programs like the NSLP students will continue to see more benefits with their health.  

Nutrition often thought by society is the label slapped to the back of everything eaten. If anyone wonders what’s in their food or how much of something is in it they can find it right on the nutrition label. Nutrition is to keep the body orderly and well maintenanced. With improper nutrition comes health issues. Given most people don’t know what all ingredients are and what they do for the body the main concern people think of is calories, proteins, carbs, sugar, fats, etc. People consuming these school lunch products don’t receive the label, so they go off what they’ve always known. Therefore, the idea of these school lunches being healthy and nutritious isn’t very popular, but the lunch programs are starting to advertise them as healthy.       

Pairing school lunches with the words nutritionally beneficial may seem absurd in many people’s opinion, but they actually fit perfectly. The feeling as if the past of school lunches have completely controlled the perception of modern school lunches. No, the argument here is not if the food tastes bad or good, it’s not restaurant worthy food, but it’s just there for one to get their daily lunch intake in the most beneficial way possible. Being nutritionally beneficial would mean the nutrients of the food are very good at maintenancing your body and brain. In the Wilder Research paper, “Nutrition And Students’ Academic Performance,” sources say, “Nutrition also indirectly impacts school performance. Poor nutrition can leave students’ susceptible to illness or lead to headaches and stomachaches, resulting in school absences. Access to nutrition that incorporates protein, carbohydrates, and glucose has been shown to improve students’ cognition, concentration, and energy levels.” Modern school lunches contain the healthy nutrients and hold out on the unhealthy parts like trans fat, sugar, refined carbs, etc. Those healthy nutrients included are the reasoning behind this argument since they are doing a great job at keeping our healthy orderly. Also, since it’s understood that nutrition keeps the body and brain orderly then that results in great amounts of energy and better behavior during school which further results in better grades and understanding of material. Opposingly, if one doesn’t receive the proper nutrients daily it could result in much more issues like headaches and illness, like said above. Also, resulting in better grades and understanding of material.                                                                                                                    

School lunches unlike homemade lunches give access to a nutritionally balanced meal opportunities everyday. Homemade lunches can have such a variety that students could have one of the healthiest meals one day, but the next day have a bag of chips with cookies and fruit punch. Clearly it’s understood how big the variety of homemade lunches can be and that could be the fuel parents and students’ opinions use since there’s no extent to what a homemade lunch could include.  The goal of this argument is to present to students and parents, by using studies and stats, that school lunches are overall much better compared to homemade lunches because of all the unknown benefits. Also, school lunches being improved each year really just provides a strong backbone to their nutritional value.  

School lunch programs, like every program, have small goals leading to a much bigger goal. That main goal is to benefit students’ health by satisfying students’ hunger, providing proper nutrients and do it all with great variety. Homemade on the other hand has one known goal and that being to satisfy hunger for students. Most students and parents don’t go through lunch prep at home and question whether they have all the food groups incorporated, but they think about what’s going to satisfy their hunger until the next meal. Overall, school lunches are given educated thought to what is being put out for students while homemade lunches are not. 

There might be underlying goals hidden behind these school lunches, but what are they for exactly? There for the students/ teachers and their health/ academics, but lots aren’t aware of this domino effect. The nutrients being provided are there to satisfy most daily health needs throughout the day given the unknown circumstances of students personal lives. In the “School Nutrition and Meal Cost Findings summary, the USDA says, “Virtually all daily lunch menus met the daily quantity requirement for milk. Nearly all daily lunch menus met the daily quantity requirements for fruits (95 percent) and meats/meat alternates (91 percent). Roughly 8 in 10 daily lunch menus met the daily quantity requirements for vegetables and grains (81 and 80 percent, respectively).” Being able to provide these percentages of food groups weekly to students and staff is unbelievable. If a student receives a dairy, fruit/veggie, meat, grains, etc. then they will be receiving much greater nutrients to energize the body. Oppositely with homemade lunches, since studies show average students homemade lunches don’t contain well balanced nutrients, their bodies and brains won’t be working to their best abilities. These standards are the proof of school lunch programs having true well-balanced lunch meals. Now that it’s understood that school lunches have nutritional value in them, it’s easy to see how the ones in consumption are receiving their daily vitamins/ minerals/ nutrients/ etc. for a positive healthy lifestyle. 

Saying all homemade lunches are unhealthy is obviously obnoxious since you don’t know what everyone is eating every meal of every single day. Some might get misdirected to where the idea is coming into play here. These school lunches provide the best overall opportunity for students’ health and education. It’s uncountable to how many varieties that can be made up for lunch from home and that’s known as well, but students today aren’t taking advantage of that variety given at home and bring in lunches like poptarts, cookies, chips, candy, etc. There’s no way to know exactly what every kid is eating and to say all kids are eating poorly, but the studies below show that homemade lunches overall are relatively on the unhealthy side rather than the healthy side. In the article, on ProQuest, called “Home-made packed lunches slip through nutrition net” it’s stated, “Of the 1,294 packed lunches, 14 (1.1 per cent) met all the food based standards for school meals set in England.” These studies being done with over 1,000 real packed lunches provides an ideal image of what other students lunches look like. Only 1.1 percent of all randomly tested homemade lunches could achieve the standards of a school lunch.  Homemade lunches can’t match against school lunches given that school lunches carry much higher standards. Another article, on Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, called, “Nutritional Comparison of Packed and School Lunches in Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten Children Following the Implementation of the 2012–2013 National School Lunch Program Standards” says, “Of the 1,314 observations collected; 42.8% were packed lunches (n = 562) and 57.2% were school lunches (n = 752). Energy, fat, saturated fat, sugar, vitamin C, and iron were significantly higher whereas protein, sodium, fiber, vitamin A, and calcium were significantly lower for packed lunches than school lunches.” Once again a study was done with over 1,000 random students and results came to a conclusion that school lunches hold higher standards which means more healthier foods, while homemade lunches had lower standards which resulted in more unhealthy nutrients being consumed like saturated fat and sugar. This refutes the idea that homemade lunches are healthier by the statistics provided and shows school lunches could provide a student with much better nutrition.

Another causal component school lunches connect with is student performance in the classroom. In the article, “The Impact of Nutrition on Learning and Behavior: A No Brainer” the National Institute for Student-Centered Education provides examples from Eric Jensen’s book, Teaching With the Brain in Mind, saying, “The brain needs a variety of nutrients to be able to function optimally. To focus, remember and regulate our emotions we need protein, unsaturated fats, complex carbohydrates and sugars (in grains, fruits and vegetables), as well as a host of trace elements such as iron, potassium, and selenium.” These nutritious lunches provided by the school helps with student performance tremendously. Students continuing to grow and develop need a good lunch plan for success. Without the proper consumption of essentials like amino acids, vitamins (A,B,C,E), iron, proteins, complex carbohydrates, etc. humans wouldn’t be able to function to their max potential. That’s the idea around these school lunches. They are giving the students and teachers the chance to reach their maximum potential. One example of direct effect these nutrients have on the brain is with complex carbs. Not getting enough complex carbs can result in low blood sugar which then results in the hippocampus (part of the brain) being affected and given that the hippocampus plays a central role in learning that would mean the lunches packed with these nutrients play huge roles in how students do academically. Once again, it’s not this one meal that will control the success of one’s self, but it’s one that can play a huge role. It’s known that lots of students don’t eat breakfast before school or class because of how early school is, so in lots of cases these lunches are students’ first meals. School lunch programs understand not all kids eat breakfast so they make sure to fill up these lunch meals with nutrients as if they were the first meal of the day, while still maintaining a good portion so students are not over eating. 

Stating that school lunches are more nutritional and more well-balanced often brings up occasional questions like what’s in the foods, what’s so healthy about these lunches, what are the effects, etc. One topic that hasn’t been cleared up is the caloric measurements of these lunches. Lunch being one of the most important meals, because it provides energy for the whole afternoon and night, means there will need to be a sufficient amount of healthy calories for energy. These lunches acquire lots of nutrients while having a good amount of calories. They keep the calories intake to a fair level so that students get the calories needed while not over doing it. School programs also keep track of the calories being put out so that it’s different by grade. On Action For Healthy Kids, the article, “How Does School Lunch Work?” says, ”Kindergarten through fifth-grade students get 550-650 calories. Sixth through eighth-grade students get 600-700 calories. Ninth through 12-grade students get 750-850 calories.” These lunches are approximately ¼ – ⅓ of the calories generally consumed daily. School lunches put out a perfect amount of calories, with the nutrients , as well, to the students and staff so that they can stay focused and energized for the whole day and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Another counter argument could be the idea that not every student and family could afford cafeteria lunches. The NSLP is the solution to those in need. They provide students with free or reduced lunch daily if qualified. The article, “Children’s Food Security and USDA Child Nutrition Programs” by the USDA says, “In 2015, 16.6 percent of households with children were classified as food insecure (adults, children, or both were food insecure). Children were reported to be food insecure in 7.8 percent of all households with children.” 16.6 percent may not seem like a huge number, but that’s about one in every six families being food insecure. The NSLP plays a huge role in protecting and supporting those families’ children to the best of their abilities. Every student receives paperwork early on in the school year to determine whether they qualify for a free or reduced lunch. The NSLP supports millions and millions each year with their food needs. The article, “The National School Lunch Program” by the USDA says, “About 7.1 million children participated in the NSLP in its first year. Since then, the Program has reached millions of children nationwide: 1970: 22.4 million children; 1980: 26.6 million children; 1990: 21.1 million children; 2000: 27.3 million children; 2010: 31.8 million children; and 2016: 30.4 million children.” One can very much understand the success the NSLP has had by the statistics of children supported. The NSLP strives for the best for all students including those who can’t afford anything. This shows that school lunch programs are there for any students who cannot afford the school lunches. The NSLP isn’t run to earn greater profits from students, but rather to support students who have financial issues outside of school.

Everyone is different when it comes to their taste buds and what they enjoy and not. So many factors play a role in a person’s taste buds like religion, where they’re from, their family, etc. and it might mean someone might not enjoy the food, for example, if someone doesn’t eat red meat because of their religious beliefs than they might pack a lunch more often. These school lunches can control issues like these by providing multiple different selections each day so students can supply their needs appropriately. There will always be the main course option which is switched up daily, but there are also the foods the programs provide daily like meat and cheese sandwiches, burgers, salads, etc. This is the variety aspect of school lunches that defeats the argument that one might not enjoy the meal on the menu for the day causing them to want to bring lunch. Another possible issue against school lunches would be allergies. Allergies are very serious for lots of kids/students and the NSLP takes that into consideration. It’s impossible to accommodate for each student’s allergies as there could be hundreds of students with different allergies, some being more serious than others. Yes, students with intense allergies may tend to bring food more than buying because they can find what fits them best, but that doesn’t defeat the refute that the NSLP, with it’s huge variety, gives additional options that avoid certain allergies. For example if a student is allergic to peanuts, which is one of the most common allergies, they could buy a salad and still have the fruits and veggies. There will always be accommodation options for these students. Students usually understand their allergies and will just need to avoid the options they are vulnerable to and they can still acquire the nutritious balance of food from the school lunches.

Overall, the idea of persuading more to choose school lunches over homemade is vulnerable to certain arguments, but those have been given alternatives or solutions to, above. If one wants to make their own meals that’s completely self-choice, but the reliable and consistent school lunches are always there for great possibility. Understanding what a “nutritionally beneficial” lunch is and how school lunch programs are classified under that category while homemade lunches are not, one can support the choice of a school lunch over homemade. School lunches are greater for future success of students and are highly suggested to all students and staff. School lunches hold underlying values that make them special and worth the cost. The further consumption of school lunches over homemade lunches will benefit students now and in the future more than anyone may expect. Take advantage of the benefits provided by schools as they get better and make their consumers healthier.


Home-made packed lunches slip through nutrition net. (2010). Nursing Standard (through 2013), 24(25), 16.

USDA. (2017, November). The National School Lunch Program.

Farris, A. R. (n.d.). Nutritional Comparison of Packed and School Lunches in Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten Children Following the Implementation of the 2012–2013 National School Lunch Program Standards.

Wilder Research. (2014, January). Nutrition and Students’ Academic Performance.

Au, L. E. (n.d.). Eating School Lunch Is Associated with Higher Diet Quality among Elementary School Students. Retrieved April 27, 2020

Graves, G. (2019, June 25). Getting a Better School Lunch.

Mathematica Policy Research . (2019, April). School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study Summary of Findings.

Cuninggim, P. (2014, May 6). The Impact of Nutrition on Learning and Behavior. 

Action For Healthy Kids. (2020, April 20). How Does School Lunch Work?

Ralston, Treen, & Coleman-Jensen. (2017, June). Children’s Food Security and USDA Child Nutrition Programs.

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