TRENTON, N.J. – Some New Jersey lawmakers want to make sure the state is culturally sensitive to students’ school lunch needs, and have introduced legislation to ensure they are.
The state Assembly approved a bill last week that would create food service advisory committees to “recommend breakfast and lunch choices that reflect the student body’s cultural, traditional and overall dietary preferences,” NJ.com reports.
The bill was sponsored by Gabriela Mosquera and others after they were approached by lobbyist Madeline Ferraro and her daughter, Brooke, a high school senior. Brooke is a vegetarian who had sought different lunch options at her school but couldn’t convince Wall Township High School cafeteria staff to accommodate her life choice, according to the news site.
“Making vegetarian, vegan, kosher, halal and other cultural dietary options available can increase the likelihood that students will eat the food on the menu and help ensure that New Jersey’s school nutrition programs reach their intended goal,” Mosquera, a Camden Democrat, told NJ.com.
“On its face, this legislation I about making sure that all students receive the nutrition they need, but the larger notion is that this is a state where we welcome people of all backgrounds,” said Benjie Wimberly, D-Passaic.
The bill would build in already restrictive school lunch regulations passed by the federal government and championed by First Lady Michelle Obama in recent years. The federal restrictions limit calories, fat, sugar, whole grain, salt, and other nutritional aspects of school lunches nationwide. The changes have resulted in more than a million students dropping out of the National School Lunch Program, and more than $1 billion in food waste.
Students in many districts have revolted against the changes with boycotts, parody music videos, and other creative ways.
The New Jersey legislation would still require schools to meet the federal restrictions, but would also mandate that schools offer a more diverse menu. The bill would require districts to survey students to determine if they have any unmet dietary needs, and would require all districts with middle and high schools to create a committee to review the responses and make recommendations.
That committee must consist of the superintendent, a principal or their designee, a food service employee or contractor, at least four students and at least one parent.
“It would have to meet at least three times a year and make recommendations to the school principal and food service director,” NJ.com reports.
The same bill is currently under consideration in the New Jersey Senate education committee.
The proposed culturally sensitive lunches seemed to irk a lot of readers who responded to the story online.
“Yeesh, when will it end?” Tradizione posted. “Now advisory committees must be implemented to implement this. What will that cost and how contentious will that be? You know one group or another is always bound to feel slighted. How do you decide who to accommodate when there are so many cultural groups in NJ?”
“You want something special for your kid, brown bag it,” ssmbf wrote. “Why should my tax dollars continue to go up because the government butts in where they don’t belong? THIS IS AMERICA or at least once was.”
Reader tgnl agreed.
“A lobbyist’s spoiled brat daughter wants vegan lunches?” tgnl posted. “Tell her to brown bag it.”