With Complaints About School Lunches, MMSD Responds


Jonathan Buscher

With the fall semester starting, MMSD has begun to receive complaints from teachers, students, and parents alike regarding the quality, quantity, and variety of school lunches being provided to all grade levels. 

One parent, Allison Martinson, wrote in an email about her first-grade daughter’s experience as she attended Franklin Elementary school. Per the MMSD online lunch menu, it was supposed to be pizza day, but instead, Martinson’s daughter received a lunch of yogurt, Cheez-its, apple slices, and a cheese stick. Martinson wrote that “My kid came home starving from school,” which she said wasn’t necessarily a problem for her family, as they could send the first grader with a lunch. However, other families might not be as equipped to provide home lunches, with school lunches being the only hot meal that some students get in a day. 

Teachers are also commenting on issues with food, describing meals as “awful.” An anonymous teacher on Facebook posted regarding the problems that inadequate lunches are causing, such as kids not eating what is at school for lunch, and parents not even knowing what will be for school lunch, due to inaccurate online menus. They also “kids tell me throughout the day that they are hungry,” and those who do eat, are often energetic for short periods of time, as current menu items have high sugar content. When kids, especially those of elementary age, are hungry, they become unable to learn properly. This creates a disparity between those who are on free and reduced lunches and are often unable to pack their own and those who bring a home lunch on a daily basis. 

There have been some attempts to fix hunger by parents. For example, Kaziah Anderson founded the Moms on a Mission group, which consists of parents giving snacks to East High School students during lunchtime. While this program was running in the 2021-2022 school year as well, Anderson has said that students this year are even hungrier than before. 

MMSD has also started to address some of these problems, with MMSD Associate Superintendent of Operations Cedric Hodo taking the time to highlight some solutions during an interview with the Cap Times. As of Thursday, September 8, of the typical 131 food service workers across the district, there were 17 part-time, and 26 full-time positions still available. This has required workers to be pulled from both other schools and the central production center, resulting in reduced complex cooking. Currently, meals are considered to be an “executable menu,” according to Hodo, with the prepackaged meals hoping to be reduced as more workers enter the system. In order to encourage more employees to apply, on Monday, September 19, the School Board unanimously voted to give most hourly employees of the district a $5 wage increase, which should help to make MMSD more competitive for hiring. 

With an increase in pay, the MMSD Food, and Nutrition Department has a higher chance of attracting more workers, although the wage increase won’t take effect before October 21.