Monday, November 29, 2010

What are the Schools Serving?

My posting on budgetting and nutrition took a detour into the area of the school lunches provided by yeshivas for their students. I've been in a fair number of yeshivas during the lunch hour and I was underimpressed to say the least. For many of the schools, eating school lunch is mandatory. There are still a few where that is optional, but they are in the minority.

So, I decided to see what I could find out about the school lunch menus without leaving the comfort of my chair. Amazingly enough there was information to be gotten online. Some yeshivot have websites on which they post their monthly school menus. This much I can tell you; there is a huge difference among the menus posted. I'm posting links to the sites I found so you can see for yourselves. Only one of the sites actually stated that school lunch is optional.

Granted, a lot of yeshivas were not online with their menus (or with anything else--they don't "believe" in the Internet). I suppose if I were being l'chaf z'chus I'd say that those yeshivas not represented online must be fine exemplars of nutritional meal planning--however, telling a lie is even a worse aveiroh, so I won't say it.

The following is a sampling of what I found online, both for NY and out of town. A few of these schools fall into the mega-expensive range so you'd think their lunch menus would reflect that. Some of the schools are more modern in outlook than others are. One of the schools is a Sefardic day school, so you'd think they would differ considerably in their food offerings. I've given a bit of info on all the schools presented as well as a link to see the complete menus offered.

Now granted, this is only a handful of schools but just how different do you think all the others are? And if this is the state of the nutrition offered to our children vis a vis the lunch meals, there is room for vast improvement.

Manhattan Day School: fleishigs one day a week, fresh fruit offered daily; Bread, Whole or Lowfat Milk & Tuna offered on Dairy Days; Bread, Apple Juice, & Tuna offered on Meat Days

Yeshiva of Manhattan Beach (Brooklyn): fleishigs two days a week; fruits appear to be mostly canned and appear every day but Friday; Bread, Whole or Lowfat Milk & Tuna offered on Dairy Days; Bread, Apple Juice, & Tuna offered on Meat Days.

Yeshiva of Flatbush: pre-school through high school. Menu offerings for lunch all seem to come from local Brooklyn restaurants. Fleishigs is available once a week. Pizza is available up to three times a week. A salad is a choice only once a week. The first link is for the 1-8 menu, the second for the nursery/kindergarden menu, which differs from what I have described above.

Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim Baltimore: elementary school for first link; middle school and high school for second link. There is no fleishigs on the menu.

Yeshiva Har HaTorah (Littleneck); fleishigs twice a week, pizza once a week; Milk is provided on all dairy days. Juice is provided on all meat days. Always available:Whole Wheat Bread, Jelly, Eggs, Tuna, Pasta

Lubavicher Yeshiva Academy (Springfield): school has two options to main school lunch, one of which is lunch brought from home: menu at link is not expansive but does say "All meals are served with a minimum of 2 vegetables, 2 fruits or 1 of each. Milk is served on non meat days and 100% juice is served on meat days. Every meal is served with either bread, roll or pita bread."

Hillel Yeshiva of New Jersey: Interesting to see the distinctions between the various divisions; the first link is for the pre-school, the second for the lementary/middle school menu. Fleishigs twice a week sort of. Can't describe this one--go see for yourselves.

Tashbar Torat Hayim Hebrew Academy (Los Angeles): This is a sefardic day school. I mention this only because a great deal has been said online about how Sefardic eating habits are better than Ashkenazic ones. Not judging by this school's menus they're not. Fleishigs 3-4 times a week and pizza once a week and not one fruit offering ever. The first link is for the pre-school, the second for the Pre-1 through 8.

SAR Academy: menu covers preschool through high school and is only served Monday through Thursday. Fleishigs Twice a week. Available Daily:Fresh Fruit,Salad Bar,Oil, Vinegar;Choice of Dressings Include: French, Italian, Creamy Italian and Russian. Nursery-2nd grade students are served fresh cut vegetables,Whole Wheat Bread. Available On Dairy Days Only:Cottage Cheese, Milk (1% and Fat Free),Yogurt,Tuna Fish


leahle said...

Seriously, schools are serving french fries with pizza?! And grilled cheese with french fries?! I fry almost nothing at home and then the schools ruin all my work at providing healthy food by what they serve during the day.

Some meals are better then others from what I read but too much junky food on the menus, loaded with fat and salt. My kids' schools don't send home the lunch menus but I'm going to ask to see them now. I imagine they aren't much better than these.

Anonymous said...

You really think that most parents would be giving their kids a better lunch at home? Or if they sent lunch to school with their kids? I've seen the type of snacks these people send in with their kids and they are also full of sugar, salt and fat. Why pick on the schools when most of the homes are no better.

Aryeh said...

With some exceptions the menus pretty much resemble what's available on the outside in the fast food places and restaurants. If the adults aren't eating any better why would they care what the kids get in school.

Rae said...

I was pretty sure that the government has some rules and regulations about what schools can serve in their meal programs. So either the government needs to improve what they allow or it could be that yeshivas either aren't following the rules or get an exemption because of kashrus reasons. Either way there is room for lots of improvement.

I did like the menus that include soup though. A good way to get veggies into the kids and most kids like soup.

Abba's Rantings said...


soup made from stock or that is genrally high in sodium and low in the vegies is not a good way to get veggies in the the kids.

JS said...

Not surprising in the least. When I was a kid, you could bring lunch in to school, but the school offered a lunch program where they ordered from local restaurants twice a week. One day was pizza and french fries, the other day was burgers/hot dogs and french fries. It seems not much has changed. In high school we had a local restaurant bring in food which was warmed up on premises - you had a daily selection between pizza, fries, falafel, calzones, soup, bagels and the like.

Not the most nutritious stuff, which isn't surprising since the local restaurants they got the food from weren't nutritious either. As pointed out above, soup can be very healthy or a heart attack in a bowl given the sodium level of some stocks.

That said, I doubt much has changed from when I was a kid and was insanely jealous of all the junk food some kids came to school with. I was stuck with a PBJ, an apple, and air popped popcorn with no salt/butter, and maybe a fruit roll up and other kids had every imaginable heimish junkfood (chips, cookies, etc) and such.

Most of my friends growing up had an entire pantry full of junk food. You can't really blame the schools and restaurants when they're just catering (literally) to what most people want.

Abba's Rantings said...


as you noted, YoF does not have it's own kitchen and orders all its food from different restaurants. the same restaurant is the vendor for one day every week. e.g., monday is bagels, tues pizza, wed deli, thurs sushi, etc.
parents can pay per day of the week for the entire year. i.e., they can choose that their kids get pizza every tues and sushi every thurs, etc. and the other days its from home.
this setup is pretty common at a lot of the MO schools
i think all this is a bad orthonomics lesson for kids to expect from day 1 that all their food will be provided from a restaurant.
and it's crazy because there are three-year-olds eating fancier lunches than i eat.

i don't know what the story is now, but about 7-8 years ago north shore hebrew academy was looking to hire a dietician, although even i think this is overkill. you shouldn't have to hire another staff member just to make sure the kids are eating healthy. especially when north shore doesn't even have its own kitchen and the dietician was mostly going to be coordinating between the school and the different vendors.

at prospect park you pay as you go only for the days your kid eats. (my son's school has the same policy, but it's not a yeshivah).

at my son's old yeshiva you paid for the entire year and it was mandatory. allergies, health concerns, finicky eaters, etc. didn't matter.

Abba's Rantings said...


"Why pick on the schools when most of the homes are no better."

1) i guess because one would assume that schools should have their students' best interests in mind

2) i wouldn't have cared as much that my son's school served nutritionally poor meals if they would have let me opt out of the mandatory lunch program. in some schools lunch program is mandatory. i suppose this is because a) home kashrus concerns (although i'm not sure why 25 years ago, when student bodies were much less religiously homogenious, this wasn't a problem); b) it may be a money maker for the schools

Sarah said...

Abba I don't think that consulting a dietician should be a permanent hire for a school. She could be a one-time consult, setting up the menus and telling the school what ingredients to tell the vendors they don't or do want.

Those soups are mostly all from commercial soup bases and they are loaded with hydrogenated fats, salt and some have msg also. The heimisch kosher ones are even much worse than the regular ones. But why should the manufacturers of these products change anything if the schools and the parent consumers aren't making a real stink about it.

JS, my mom was like yours. We got healthy lunches and mom avoided junk with maybe the exception of some homemade cookies or some animal crackers. Only now that I see how lucky I really was--back then I thought I was underpriveleged.

Anonymous said...

Don't criticize the pizza. I'm sure it is very healthy - whole wheat crust, a small amount of skim mozarella, homemade tomoto sauce with no salt, and heaps of steamed or roasted veggies like broccoli and yellow peppers on top. :)

Simi said...

Shouldn't one of our questions be what the public schools are serving their kids for lunch? What ingredients are they using? Is this just the yeshiva system that needs some fixing or is it the school lunch system across the board?

If it's the whole system then schools have to take a lot of the heat for the obesity epidemic and the poor health of kids. If it's just the yeshiva system then what the H--- are they doing to our kids?! They won't let me send in lunch but they provide garbage nutrition?

tesyaa said...

No public school required participation in a lunch program. That's not excusing them, but at least you're not forced to pay for junk food.

I'm assuming that kids who would qualify for free or reduced-price lunch in the public school system get the same benefit in yeshiva (since schools camps always send the qualification form with the paperwork). Does anyone know if this is correct?

Abba's Rantings said...


i don't understand what the difference whether it's just jewish schools or all schools. in any case, i think it's specific to state and district. e.g., i think NJ public schools are pretty strict on sugar in school diets?


in NYC yeshivah kids definately are eligible for publicly funded lunches.

Abba's Rantings said...

besides what it served at mealtime, there is also what is served at snack time and other times. even for bribes.

at parent orientation night at my son's old school the english teacher tried to encourage parents to send in healthy snacks. then when the rebbe spoke to us he mentioned in passing that he regularly uses candy as bribes/rewards in class.

tesyaa said...

then when the rebbe spoke to us he mentioned in passing that he regularly uses candy as bribes/rewards in class.

Although the school is not doing it this year, my daughters' school always had the eighth grade girls finance their graduation trip by selling candy and Snapple in a "canteen".

Miami Al said...

The Federal free/reduced lunch program emphasized high calorie meals. Since historically the concern with poor people was starvation, not obesity, the guidelines push fatty meals. The same is true for the free breakfast program, where breakfast was served only for the poor, somehow the middle class kids with two frazzled working parents could get by on cereal or no breakfast, but the poor were entitled to a hot breakfast each morning, the middle class kids couldn't buy in to that...

The irony being, school lunches are uniformly bad, high in empty calories, while the government fights an obesity epidemic.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

School lunch menus have long been dismal at best. The problem, as with most things, is that the only food that fits the budget is mass produced garbage - which is why the fast food outlets always have the cheapest meal deals. That said it's also the mentality of schools, cheaper is better and (more often than not) quicker and easier to prepare. There's a lot that needs to be done, but it needs to start with administration.

Imato5 said...

If it has to start with the administration Ehram then we are in big trouble. They are the ones who put this type of lunch program into place. Agree with commenter who said that money plays a part and junk is cheaper then healthy stuff, but these are our kids! Bothers me a whole lot that in my kids school there is no opting out from the school lunch for any reason, even health ones.

Anonymous said...

As a teacher, I won't eat the food that is served to my students, with the exception of the fresh vegetables. I only serve candy for special occasions and treats, and even then, I keep it to the minimum (by minimum I mean 1/6ths-no typo-of a twizzler per student). HOWEVER, I have to say that we can't have it both ways. We say tuition is too high. Many middle class families, as mentioned above, do not qualify for free or reduced lunch. Where is the money to pay for healthier lunches going to come from? My classroom is in dire need of new tables, sinks and toilets that the students can reach themselves, another pair of hands, a soap dispenser...among many other things. The money isn't going to come from thin air!

Helen said...

MorahMamale and others--why are you all assuming that junky unhealthy food is so cheap? Or that healthier food is so expensive? Look at what the schools charge for their school lunches. Then add in that for those students who qualify for the federal aid the schools are getting money or products at no cost. You think you couldn't make healthier food for $15-20 a week per child? Sure you could. But first you would have to want to.

That money is already being taken from the parents. Not the reason Morah why you aren't getting new things for your classroom.

Anonymous said...

Helen, while I agree that in some or rather, many schools, the money is already being taken from the parents, I have to disagree in my case, as well as that of the teachers I'm in touch with the most. We work in schools-yes, Jewish, Orthodox, private schools that are primarily geared towards low income/immigrant children. The money isn't coming from the parents-as of tonight the average parent in my school is paying $25 a month. I don't think parents pay for lunches, whether or not they qualify for free/reduced meals. Government food programs pay $5 a day, per child, total. That has to cover breakfast and lunch.

Money coming in from the government is very strictly allocated. Title I pays for only very specific things, and the same goes for every other program.

Why am I "assuming that junky unhealthy food is so cheap"? Firstly, I didn't say cheap-I said cheaper. Everything is relative. Second, I know because when I walk into a local grocery store to choose a snack for my students, I see the prices. The day I gave out graham crackers, covered in marshmallow fluff, sprinkles, and licorice (in connection to something we were learning) I spent a LOT less money per child than I did when we tasted different types of apples and chose our favorites.

A lunch that isn't balanced is cheaper just by virtue of the fact that you are serving less food. A serving of macaroni and cheese with juice or milk is cheaper than a serving of macaroni and cheese, fruits, vegetables, and milk.

As for not getting the other things I need for my classroom, believe me, the school is chalishing to give more. They can't because the money isn't there.