Food for thought

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

We sat in baffled amazement not once, but twice, at the Cherokee Washington High freshman orientation session last Thursday night at WHS.

The topic was the nefarious existence of the a la carte menu served at lunchtime at the high school.

In his opening remarks to parents and freshman students, WHS Principal Larry Hunecke addressed the economic pitfalls of the a la carte menu and how fast it can run up a large bill for students and their families way beyond the "normal" cost of eating only the planned, well-balanced, and quite nutritional school meal each day.

Hunecke cautioned both students and parents that the choice to eat a la carte in combination with the normal lunch served, or to eat a la carte only, could become very expensive if not held in check. Rightly so, Hunecke said the issue was ultimately between parents and their children.

Later, when the students and parents convened in the WHS Commons for a preview of lunchtime and all it entails from Food Services Director Dori Claycamp, the same warning was again issued by Claycamp, who encouraged students to eat the normal lunch served and, if necessary, they could supplement with offerings from the a la carte menu. Claycamp recommended the normal school lunch fare, saying it was very good, well-balanced, and nutritional.

Claycamp then listed the many a la carte items the school has available each day, from pizza and a wide variety of sandwiches, to french fries, chicken nuggets, cheese balls, cheese fries, malts, etc.

What's wrong with this picture?

Well, it appears to us that the school district, besides the glaring hypocrisy, is creating its own misery by offering such a tempting bounty of junk food, and then publicly fretting over the fact that some students actually pay for and eat it.

There must be past, present, and future problems with this issue, or the administration would not be cautioning incoming students and their parents about it.

In a cut-to-the-chase effort here, we say why have such a tempting and extensive a la carte menu at all? We doubt it is state-mandated. It seems in this instance that the district insists on continually punching itself in the face so it can whine about the pain.

What's wrong with those planned, nutritional, well-balanced meals and maybe a couple a la carte items (plus fruits) that could serve to supplement a student's larger appetite, all the while ensuring that the normal meal remains the main course?

We also must interject that, as parents, we're all guilty of feeding the beast by our lax "caving in" when little Johnny refuses to eat his vegetables and successfully negotiates another meal of pizza and pop, or chips, candy, ice cream, and cookies.

One more thing, on a day when the normal meal isn't too exciting to our food-pampered children, is there a rush to the a la carte line, later followed by huge batches of the normal meal being thrown away and wasted?

(Psst... We know the answer).

In removing most of the temptation, the district would not have to concern itself with the admitted run-away expense and economic woes inflicted on families whose children persist in regularly hitting the pricey a la carte line.

Or is that a la carte menu a valued revenue stream for the district that makes an obvious problem and all the resulting worries and caveats inconsequential?