A New York father’s social media post with photos of his son’s inadequate school meals has gone viral.
Christopher Vangellow shared pictures of meals severed in the Parishville-Hopkinton Central School District in upstate New York, including a number of unappetising beige meals.
One had four small chicken nuggets, a lump of rice, and a handful of carrots, another photo had a square slice of pizza and three orange slices. Another shows some fried balls, a bread roll and some jello.
“The kids were complaining at the amount of food they were getting for lunch,” Mr Vangellow told The Independent.
“They told me ‘it’s gotten less and less in the last couple of years, so I said ‘we can send you in with money to buy more or we can send you in with food from home’, which we do. But I was curious how bad it really is, so I said ‘take some photos.’”
“I got this photo today. It really is ridiculous. Don’t come at me with the ‘you get what you pay for’ or ‘just send them with food’ crap either,” said Mr Vangellow in his viral post last week. “The problem is that not all families can do that. 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.”
Mr Vangellow said that providing free school meals is the right thing for the government to do. “During the pandemic, all school meals are provided to students,” he said, but added that before Covid the standard was a lot better. The National School Lunch Program claims its meals are “nutritionally balanced”.
“It’s not enough, it’s not nutritious enough, it’s not filling enough,” Mr Vangellow told The Independent. “Especially for the students who are athletes, no way is it going to get them through the day, let alone a basketball game.”
Mr Vangellow’s 16 year-old-son is six foot five inches tall, “these meals are failing those kids,” he said.
Since the post, he has received numerous messages from other parents whose children have also complained about their lunches. It suggests there is “a problem all over the country,” said Mr Vangellow.
On the reverse side, a lot of parents have shared photos of their nutritious children’s meals at public schools and “there is a lot more to it”, he said. “There’s sometimes a salad or lots of fruits and vegetables, and larger portions … I don’t know why it’s so different from school to school.”
Mr Vangellow agrees with free school meals for children, “if it means higher taxes I’m for that”, he said. “We need food to survive, why are we giving our children so little?”
The Parishville-Hopkinton Central School District has responded with a statement to Mr Vangellow’s post: “In fairness to the cafeteria, students are allowed one more serving of fruits or vegetables and one additional nugget than appeared in the photograph,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr William Collins, who conceded that this wouldn’t change the dissatisfaction of parents and students. He has vowed to improve the situation.
“The Cafeteria Manager and I are creating a group to address the dissatisfaction with school meals,” added Dr Collins.
Mr Vangellow has said that the situation has already improved since his post, “my son said that they actually got a pretty good lunch yesterday,” he said.
The Independent has contacted Parishville-Hopkinton Central School for further comment.