Fueling Our Future: This Is What School Lunches Actually Look Like

Remember how the students in Fame spent their lunch break dancing on cafeteria tables? Despite recent healthy-eating efforts, most kids today aren’t nearly so happy come lunch time.

To call awareness to the reality of school lunches and their questionable nutritional value and color palette (beige, gray, and brown seem to be the primary colors), Farah Sheikh, an education campaign manager at the nonprofit, Do Something, created Fed Up. The online campaign asked students to send in photos of their lunches and then vote on which ones they would “eat” and which they would “toss.” Images included the barf-tastic “Pork Slop” from Mississippi and the delightfully colorful lunch combo titled “lunch is pretty awesome” from Texas.

Sheikh says she is encouraged by the number of healthy-looking lunch photos that kids sent. But she added that “70% of the students who submitted images are unsatisfied with the meals being served. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what’s being served–what matters is what’s being consumed.” A total of zero students said they’d be willing to eat the pork slop.

Sheikh is still assessing her data, but she has seen a preliminary correlation between nutrition and student satisfaction. “The meals that show the most nutritious and healthy [ingredients] are the ones we’re actually seeing the highest ‘EAT IT’ votes on,” she says. “It definitely goes against the criticism that teens only want pizza and french fries.”

As evidenced by the overwhelming response–7,000 photos– it’s clear that even older kids love to play with their pizza and get silly with their spaghetti. Each picture is accompanied by an inventive caption, including, “Viva La Leafa” and “Poo Stew.”JM