Pulse: Special Report: What Are Your Kids Eating?


You tried, didn’t you? You spent the summer feeding Junior fresh veggies (mmm, sweet Jersey corn) and home-cooked meals, praying when September came he’d be able to resist the evil, oily, fatty, and too-oftentimes chocolatey fare in the school chow line.

But it turns out area schools are actually doing something we never suspected: They’re serving healthy food, in many cases ditching the soda and fries and creating more variety than most mall food courts. Then why are so many of our kids still eating like El Wingador?

A roundup of high-school lunchroom menus for the coming school year confirms a parent’s worst fear: You can lead your kids to the salad bar, but you can’t make them eat.

High School: Central Bucks West, Doylestown
Average household income: 56% over $75,000
Who’s cooking: Sodexho
On the menu: Chef’s salad, French bread pizza, grilled paninis, turkey tacos, pepperoni rolls
The good news: Parents can control what kids eat with prepaid cards; all chip products are baked, not fried
Kids’ faves (a.k.a. the bad news): Nachos supreme, turkey subs, chocolate chip cookies (at least they’re reduced-fat)
Biggest student gripes: Slow service (well, there are 1,400-plus students) and, believe it or not, lack of variety

High School: Spring-Ford, Royersford
Average household income: 58% between $50,000 and $150,000
Who’s cooking: Self-operated
On the menu: Pre-prepped salads, hot and cold sandwiches, the never-dying chicken nugget, fruit
The good news: They’ve ditched Gatorade and Yoo-hoo, and have only baked—not fried—snacks
Kids’ faves (a.k.a. the bad news): Chocolate chip cookies
Biggest student gripes: Not enough time to eat (lunch breaks are 30 minutes)

High School: Kennett, ­Kennett Square
Average household income: 53% over $75,000
Who’s cooking: Self-operated
On the menu: Grilled cheese with tomato soup, baked chicken with red beans and rice
The good news: Snack items and beverages are all limited to 200 calories each
Kids’ faves (a.k.a. the bad news): Pizza, chocolate chip cookies
Biggest student gripes: Diverse student body = kids who’ve never seen some foods before (a.k.a., “What the hell is that?”)

High School: South Philadelphia
Average household income: 67% less than $50,000
Who’s cooking: Aramark
On the menu: Cook-to-order stations for stir-fries, Mexican, omelets and salads
The good news: Food stations are manned by culinary-school students
Kids’ faves (a.k.a. the bad news): 100% grape juice slushy, chicken nuggets, pizza
Biggest student gripes: “They just ­complain … it’s not McDonald’s.”

High School: Radnor
Average household income: 44% over $100,000
Who’s cooking: Self-operated
On the menu: Wrap stations, chicken cheesesteaks, ­gourmet salads like spinach with strawberries
The good news: They’ve never sold soda; all fried foods have been zapped from the menu
Kids’ faves (a.k.a. the bad news): Chicken nuggets, pasta bar, pizza
Biggest student gripes: “More sweets!”

High School: Cherry Hill West
Average household income: 53% over $75,000
Who’s cooking: Aramark
On the menu: Tamales with Mexican rice, egg rolls, chef’s salad
The good news: Menu changes are supplemented with classes on healthy eating for all grades
Kids’ faves (a.k.a. the bad news): Chicken fritters, chicken sandwiches, pizza
Biggest student gripes: “Where did the Tastykakes go?”

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.