Dave Constantin

How Today's School Lunch Lines Promote Class Segregation

When Dr. Rajiv Bhatia walked into the lunchroom at Mission High School in San Francisco in 2007, he couldn’t believe what he saw. Bhatia, then director of environmental health at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, was there to study food systems and look for ways to increase nutritional quality. What he found would ultimately lead him to an entirely different investigation: a system of blatant segregation that seemed straight out of the 1950s. In one line cash-paying students waited to enjoy a wide selection of à la carte, or “competitive,” foods. In another, low-income, mostly minority students stood single file to receive prepackaged free-or-reduced meals supplied by the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). 

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