Food, Healthy Living, Parenting, Tips and Tricks

What Your Teenager is Really Eating at School

I spend almost 3 hours of my day serving lunch at our local High School. I am a parent of a High Schooler myself and I took the job as I was a bored SAHM, but wanted my boys’ school schedule if I were to look for some part time work to keep busy. Taking a job in their school district gives me their exact district schedule for days off and a bit of insight that I want to share with you.
This is not a post to punish schools at all! I am a Mom and the other gals I work with are Mom’s too. The food we serve has to feed many students in a short time and be cost effective so kids can afford to eat! That being said, I was not sure how ‘lunchtime’ worked exactly and as a Mom, I want to share with you just how your lunch money gets spent by your high schooler. Food is essential for them to get through their busy days and the nutrition department works hard to make sure your child will eat, but as they hit High School the supervision is just not possible as when they were younger. My 6 year old has ‘table ladies’ that make sure the kids finish the fruit and veggies they take. Your High Schooler is only eating what they want and if they want to!
They are spending your money twice as fast!

If you deposit or send money to school for your child to put on his/her account do you calculate how long that money should last? In most school districts they are allowed as many lunches as they want to buy. In most cases, I see the boys doing this and on football season as they come through with jerseys on a Friday game day, they will buy 2-3 lunches and eat it all! That is 2-3 nachos or cheeseburgers plus the fries and milks. Granted they need the extra calories on game day, but if this sounds like your child and you feel the $50 you sent should be lasting longer than a week (full price school lunch averages around $3 per lunch purchase) then you may need to question them. They really should be eating extra on game days so if they just require extra nutrition, perhaps 1 lunch at school and a healthier item from home like a PB&J sandwich is a bit more beneficial for them. Even on non-game days, we have the few that always double up! I cringe when I send them walk away with 2 corn dogs and 2 sets of fries and many of them don’t want the fruits. They take them because they have to and toss them in the garbage as they walk away!
What I’ve learned serving High Schoolers lunch? Nutrition starts at home. We can have it and even serve it to your child, but if they toss it-they are not eating it anyway. Too many blame the district-now I see that as a Mom, I need to check in with my child and give him the best nutrition education I can about getting that apple or banana down them with those nuggets!
They are buying for friends!

Everyday, in every lunch period I witness kids purchasing meals for them and an extra one for a friend. A teen will come up and say “Two Pizzas…one is for her or him!” If your child is not a big eater, but your lunch money is running low you may need to engage the conversation of where the money is going. As a Mom, if my son needed to buy lunch for a hungry friend, I would be totally OK with it but some kids do it over and over again. This could be an alert as a parent to another child with no nutrition. I often wonder those circumstances myself as I serve these same kids and their friends. Lunch isn’t cheap if you are not reduced so if your child is feeding a kid who just wants 2 lunches, you may need to call the school and ask for a 1 lunch limit to be flagged on their account! You can do that!
We serve the fruits and veggies-they don’t eat them!

I touch on that above, but this deserves it’s own paragraph! EVERY school has the fruits, veggies and salads available. Most schools rule is they choose their main course (burger, nachos, sandwich, etc) and then take as many fruits and veggies as they want. We have signs and education all around that state nutrition standards is 1 cup of fruit with each meal. 1 cup of fruit is 2 fruit choices or a juice and a fruit! They take it then toss it! Boys are the most guilty! And you know which boys? The athletes! No joke! It makes me cringe-they need those especially on game day! Please educate your teens and find a way for them to supplement the carbs and fries they are devouring with the healthy options. If they don’t like what we serve, pack them some from home! I would say nearly half of all the students skip or toss the good stuff! They want the carbs and grease!
The exceptions

Here is how lunchtime works. Your teenager picks the food line if the school has choices that they want based on the main dish they are craving that day. The lines move relatively fast and as they enter their student numbers, it pulls up their lunch profile that only we see as employees. It tells us balances so they can be warned when getting down to 2-3 lunches and it shows us alerts. These alerts are as you wish! 
Some alerts you can attach to your child’s lunch profile are allergies (always list those), foods sensitivities, notes about your money. You can request ‘No seconds’ as that is a popular request by parents on a budget. If your child gets free or reduced lunch, they typically cannot get seconds anyway! Sometimes this is where they are using or your child is using for a friend-that extra lunch purchase. 
Graphic taken from

If you are free or reduced and your child’s account is limited to 1 lunch, please send them extra food on game day if they are athletes. These boys (and girls) are ravenous and need the fuel. A extra PB&J or ham and cheese sandwich will do them wonders along with their meal. Put notes on your child’s account and watch your funds! Question your child when money is running out too fast. They may need extra food sent or have a friend who is using their account for any reason. 
For a great article on teen nutrition needs, see A Teenager’s Nutritional Needs post
Have more questions? Just ask. I had always wondered before how lunch went for my High Schooler and I assume many of you feel the same. Hope this helps!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. No affiliate links are contained.

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