NY dad spurs larger debate with photo of ‘regulated’ portioning of son’s high school lunch

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Former first lady Michelle Obama’s widely panned “nasty” school lunches appear to be making a comeback, though not necessarily because of her.

Meet Chris Vangellow, an upstate New York father of four whose 6-foot-5-inches, 16-year-old son Ash recently sent him a photo of his school lunch.

The pathetically sized “meal” contained nothing but four tiny chicken nuggets, a tiny portion of white rice, a few frozen baby carrots and one little thing of milk.

Believe it or not, but his 16-year-old son was one of the lucky ones. By the time his other son Auryn got to the cafeteria, the baby carrots were already out of stock. Plus, the photo wasn’t snapped on game day.

“[Ash] started complaining that lunch was ‘not enough.’ One of my other kids also sent me the same picture, and I knew they had a game coming up,” Vangellow said this week in an interview with Fox News.

“I was thinking if there’s kids playing basketball, this is not enough for him. I know we don’t live in a very rich area … some kids rely on the school [for lunch].”

Vangellow and his kids unintentionally became Internet stars earlier this month when he posted his son’s photo to Facebook.

View the New York father’s Facebook post below:

I think the Parishville School Lunches might be a bit lacking a bit. even for a kid that isn’t 6’5 like Ash. If this was…

Posted by Christopher Vangellow on Wednesday, January 12, 2022

But what’s to blame for these underwhelming lunches? Vangellow wrote in the Facebook post that the issue began when the lunches were made “free for everyone.”

“They have been complaining that since the lunches are now free for everyone, the portions have dropped. I got this photo today. It really is ridiculous,” he wrote.

He also preemptively came at his critics.

“Don’t come at me with the ‘you get what you pay for’ or ‘just send them with food’ crap either. Yeah we can do that and sometimes the kids do choose to bring something from home or will buy extra lunch to get more in them to get them through a day. The problem is that not all families can do that,” he wrote.

“We don’t live in a very rich area. Some kids may not get much or anything when at home and this is what they have to survive on. They rely on the meals that the school provides. This is what they get though. In my opinion, this is failing those kids.”

However, one of the many people who commented on Vangellow’s post pushed back and claimed that the true culprit is federal regulation.

“It has nothing to do with the school, the portions are regulated. I work in a school, it’s 2oz protein, 2oz grain, 1/2 c fruit, 1/2c veg for elementary and middle school kids. High school is a little more. It has nothing to do with the school and/or their budget,” the commenter wrote.

This is certainly a possibility, though the question then would be why students at other schools nationwide aren’t lodging similar complaints about their lunches.

In a statement to Fox News, Parishville-Hopkinton Central School District superintendent William E. Collins mentioned the regulatory aspect, though he also claimed that the photos obtained by Vangellow were misleading.

“We fall under the same nutritional guidelines as every public school in the nation, so there are limitations on just how varied school lunches can be from one school to another,” he said.

“Some of the lunches in the photos are misleading because they show incomplete serving sizes that do not contain all of the choices available to students going through the lunch line”

However, he did admit that it may be time for “a change,” writing that “it is clear that many students and parents would like to see a change.”

Collins also issued a “message” directly to students and parents promising change. Much to his credit, the message acknowledged Vangellow’s complaints.

A Message from Dr. Collins: Reimagining School Lunches

https://www.phcsd.org/o/phcsd/article/628813

Posted by Parishville-Hopkinton Central School District on Friday, January 14, 2022

“This week a concerned parent’s Facebook post about Parishville-Hopkinton school lunches went viral. The concerns expressed clearly resonated with students and parents as evidenced by the number of comments and shares. In fairness to the cafeteria, students are allowed one more serving of fruits or vegetables and one additional nugget than appeared in the photograph; however, this doesn’t alter the message that many students and parents are dissatisfied with school lunches,” the message reads.

“The Cafeteria Manager and I are creating a group to address the dissatisfaction with school meals. In addition to the Cafeteria Manager and me, this working group will be made up of concerned students (4) and parents (4) along with a representative from the Wellness Committee. This group will explore ways to make school meals more appetizing while still meeting the strict USDA requirements of the National School Lunch Program.”

According to Vangellow, he and his sons have all signed up to participate in the “working group” mentioned by Collins.

While this story started out bad, it appears things may just work out thanks to Vangellow taking the time to politely but sternly call out the school, and Collins taking the time to listen and respond with empathy.

Vivek Saxena

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