Chris Vangellow, a dad of four, spoke with Fox News about the post which is garnering attention from parents in his upstate New York, community.
Vangellow said all of his children attend Parishville-Hopkinton Central School District and his 16-year-old son has been sending him pictures of the lunches he has been served at school in recent months.
“He started complaining that lunch was ‘not enough,’” Vangellow told Fox News, adding, “One of my other kids also sent me the same picture and I knew they had a game coming up. 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].”
On Jan. 12, Vangellow posted an image onto Facebook of the food his son was served for lunch: four chicken nuggets, a side of carrots, a side of rice and a carton of fat free chocolate milk. He wrote that one of his other children didn’t have any “dry tasteless carrots” because none were apparently available when he arrived to his lunch period.
“They have been complaining that since the lunches are now free for everyone, the portions have dropped,” Vangellow wrote on Facebook. “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.”
“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,” he continued in the post. “The problem is that not all families can do that.”
In a statement regarding Vangellow’s Facebook post, Superintendent Dr. William E. Collins shared a public message on Parishville-Hopkinton Central School District’s website.
“This week a concerned parent’s Facebook post about Parishville-Hopkinton school lunches went viral,” Collins wrote. “The concerns expressed clearly resonated with students and parents as evidenced by the number of comments and shares.”
In a comment provided to Fox News, Collins said the school contracts through BOCES [Boards of Cooperative Educational Services] for food service purchases.
“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,” Collins wrote in an email to Fox. “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, it is clear that many students and parents would like to see a change.”
Collins recently announced that he and the cafeteria manager plan on working with a group of students, parents and representatives from its Wellness Committee to explore how to make lunches more appetizing “while still meeting the strict USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] requirements of the National School Lunch Program” and without increasing costs.
“We have some wonderful farmers within our school district who have expressed an interest in getting local farm fresh ingredients on students’ plates,” Collins told Fox. “Our staff, along with their spouses, and students recently volunteered their time and labor after school and on weekends to transform our courtyard into an outdoor learning space with raised growing beds, so classes can learn about growing food.”
Collins went on, “Additionally, we have an active Wellness Committee that partners with the county Health Initiative to find funding sources for healthy food choices, like our smoothie cart for healthier classroom celebrations.”
Vangellow said his son plays after school sports and usually eats lunch around 11:00 a.m. While school lunch is free, Vangellow offers his kids extra cash in case they’re still hungry and want to purchase a second lunch or a snack at the local convenience store down the street, he said.
In the comments section on Vangellow’s post, one person who said she is also a Parishville-Hopkinton shared a photo of the same lunch writing, “I did not want the dry carrots or mushy rice but to be ok with sending me off with this much for lunch?! That’s ridiculous.”
Another wrote,” I cooked for toddlers at Daycare for a couple years and this is toddler portions.”
One commenter who said she works at a school said, “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.”
In his statement on the district’s website, Collins said that students are allowed one more serving of fruits or vegetables. They’re also allowed one additional nugget than the amount seen in Vangellow’s son’s photo.
“…however, this doesn’t alter the message that many students and parents are dissatisfied with school lunches,” Collins wrote.
The federally-assisted National School Lunch Program (NSLP) operates in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions,” according to the NSLP website. In 2016, 30.4 million children were reached by NSLP, nationwide.
On its website the NSLP says it provides “nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day.”
The USDA has not yet responded to Fox News’ request for comment on whether the photo of the lunch seen in Vangellow’s post meets its guidelines for a nutritional lunch.
On Jan. 7, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that an estimated $ 750 million more would be put into school meal programs across the nation in 2022. The increased funding is to ensure kids continue to receive healthy meals at school, the USDA wrote in a news release.
Vangellow said he and his son have signed up to be part of Collins’ group which is named, “Reimagining School Lunches.” Members will brainstorm on how to make lunches more appetizing, the digital sign-up sheet states.
Vangellow said he’s not sure as to when volunteers will be chosen.