By Nada Jaafer
Unis Middle School
Since fall 2013, Dearborn Public Schools have been meeting new standards regarding students’ lunches and how they are prepared and served. These new standards ensure that schools will provide students with the protein and fiber and nutrition that they need every day. However, some students may disagree with the choices that the district makes regarding the lunches that they serve.“They’re really disgusting,” said Mariam Beydoun, an eighth grade student in Unis Middle School. She said the district could do a better job providing lunches “because they’re spending money on stuff we don’t even need, when they could be spending it on food.”
Unis Middle School Assistant Principal Fadi Souidan said otherwise. “I think that we’re doing better. ”We’ve tried to make them more healthy, always considering better ways.”
Dearborn Public Schools’ lunches include: galaxy pizza, sack ’n’ go, halal hot dog on whole wheat bun, halal chicken nuggets and, added recently, veggie lasagna. The district assures Muslim students that all meat and chicken lunches (excluding hamburgers) are halal for them to eat.
Dearborn Public Schools serve lunches unlike those in other Michgan districts. The Livonia Public Schools’ website lists stuffed-crust pizza, Italian pasta, assorted homemade pizza, salad bar day, mac and cheese with dinner roll, Italian dunkers, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, veggie burger, seasoned rice, Dominoes’ “smart sliced” pizza, hummus with loco bread, tacos in a bag, and popcorn chicken. Side dishes include: yogurt parfait, mashed potatoes, salsa, turkey sausage, pretzels, and cooked broccoli.
The lunches at Livonia’s Public Schools are provided by School Nutrition Association. Livonia’s standards regarding school lunch include more whole grains, vegetable variety, and less sodium. While Dearborn Public Schools started meeting similar standards this fall, the two districts’ lunch choices differ greatly.
The new standards don’t appear to appeal to some Dearborn students’ tastes. Zeinab Farhat, another eighth-grade student at Unis Middle School, is one of those students. She said, “I actually would rather pack a lunch.” Farhat has also said the schools sometimes “don’t provide the lunches that students actually want.”
Students posted pictures of school lunches and then voted on whether they would eat them in the DoSomething.com Fed Up campaign.
Budget cuts appear to have hurt the lunches offerings. For example, last year, while serving breakfast for lunch, maple syrup would be served along with pancakes or waffles. This year there was no maple syrup. Instea, the pancakes and waffles were maple-flavored. Students at Unis Middle School have expressed outrage at this, claiming that the maple flavored pancakes and waffles are not the same, and that they wish to have the syrup back when eating breakfast for lunch.
Mr. Souidan said that he had heard some of the complaints, but appeared to be puzzled by them. He said, “You’re always going to hear complaints.” He added that he is hearing fewer of them.
While students do complain and do show signs of indifference and disgust on the overall lunch, Dearborn Public Schools do in fact look at the students’ complaints.
“The district does listen,” said Souidan, but change doesn’t happen overnight,” says Souidan. “Some things they can provide, but some things, they can’t.
“Sometimes when there’s a problem, they may not be able to fix it. I think the District does an excellent job at responding to the students’ needs… we care very much about the students. … We try very hard to set the standards high.”