Marie Noplos/Daily Journal: The new Otter Value Meal combines a la carte items with the fruits and vegetables from the regular lunch. It only costs $2, and it qualifies for the free and reduced lunch program. Clockwise from Seth Johnson: Kailyn Richey, Hailey Budke and Berit Skogen.

Archived Story

Testing the new school lunch [UPDATED]

Published 11:02am Thursday, September 13, 2012 Updated 11:02am Thursday, September 13, 2012

For the first time in five years, I had the opportunity to walk through a high school lunch line, select what I wanted and sit down and eat with students.

When I was in high school, I knew something needed to be done about the lunch system. I usually ordered the “regular lunch” option for $1.35, but if I didn’t like some of the items on the menu, I would go through the a la carte line where a slice of pizza was about the same price as a full tray of food.

As a result, popular a la carte lunches for many students included two tacos and a milk; popcorn chicken and breadsticks; a cheeseburger and fries; and a slice of pizza and a cookie.

Kennedy Secondary now offers a new lunch option that combines regular lunch and a la carte items. I sat down and tried the Otter Value Meal on Monday, and it gets my approval.

My meal consisted of a Taco Johns taco, peaches, a banana, broccoli and milk. It was good, it filled me up and it was only $2. Looking around, I noticed I wasn’t alone in getting the Otter Value Meal. Four of the seven students at my table were eating the same thing.

When asked if the lunch options were better this year, the students at my table gave me a resounding “yes.”

The Otter Value Meal qualifies for the free and reduced lunch plan, which means that even students who come from homes with limited income can enjoy the new option.

I know that a taco might not be the most healthy food item for students, but I think it’s a good compromise. It encourages students to eat fruits and vegetables, and I think that’s important. It also provides student athletes enough food to get them through practice after school.

The only complaint I have with the new Otter Value Meal is that I wish they offered it when I was in high school.


Seth Johnson is a reporter for The Journal.

  • Jennifer

    Wow I have some major concerns about school lunches in Fergus Falls! Due to the fact I live in California I have sort of become a health freak which has resulted in the downspiral of my waistband. I was “fat” when I grew up going to school in Fergus Falls but I didn’t know anything about proper diet.

    In California there is no “a la carte” for students, you eat what everyone else eats but the schools have a different requirement. Every child is required to choose between 2 fresh cut fruits and 2 fresh cut vegetables. They are also required to choose a “whole grain” option and “healthy protien” option. Of course there is the usual 100% organic peanut butter sandwich or turkey sandwich option (look at regular pb its made with partially hydro oil – equaling pure sugar and fat with little nutrition). Once a month the students have a healthy fruit or veggie of the month that each child takes home. One month is Jicama, mandarins, cantaloupe, broccoli, etc. Serving junk food like “Taco Johns” is not only extremely high in salt and processed food these children are developing a taste for “fast food”. I don’t understand why parents wouldn’t move to push back on fast food vendors and do away with any sort of fast food reference. Fast food, regardless of how many veggies, fruits, or dairy are on the side is not something I would expect a town like Fergus Falls to promote to children in schools.

    • njtransplant

      I just have one question…and your point was?

      • Jennifer

        Bill this type of attitude is the problem with society today.

        My point is that the school couldn’t find anything better to come with for children’s lunches, some of which are paid for by your tax dollars. I pay my taxes to California so when I open up a school menu and see the breakfast option as “granola with almonds” “fresh oranges” and “white skim milk.” For lunch a “roasted turkey on whole wheat” “steam broccoli” and “brown rice” with “white skim milk” As a parent I know that my child is eating a good meal. Not getting overloaded with sugar, empty carbs, and SODIUM all of which increase obesity.

        If my kid came home and told me he had an “otter value meal” packed with enriched flour and high in sodium but hey its okay because he had some fruit and veggies I would have a fit.

        Obesity is an epidemic and comes from what you put in your mouth. Catering to fast food chains does nothing to teach children to eat properly and the school need not be catering to fast food, it needs to cater towards these children. Most people I know don’t even take their kids out to eat you cannot be healthy and eat fast food loaded in salt and preservatives.

    • Frizzel

      When you grew up here you didn’t know anything about proper diet??? When was this, 1930? When I grew up here That was all they taught us in our Health and PsyEd classes. Food groups, more veggies than meat (something I still am not in favor of haha), etc…. If you were awake you would have learned this. Taco Johns isn’t really junk food if you take a look at the other options out there. I’m guessing the tortilla shells aren’t organic, but the lettuce, tomatoes, sauce and even the hamburger aren’t as bad as a McD’s happy meal. And yes, happy, hippy organic onlys would be nice but the costs involved would be insane. Seriously though, if you didn’t pick up on this, you slept through more classes than I did!

  • Jennifer

    I wanted to add a better alternative. Below I have attached a nutrition break down for taco johns.

    I wanted to add a better alternative to having a “Taco Johns” taco would be a a taco with 100% whole wheat tortilla and chicken (which is better then ground beef), loaded with veggies. I am 12 years with a Hispanic man, we don’t allow our children to eat “regular” tortillas. Very fattening, little nutritional value. Another alternative is whole grain pita bread as well. Children learn to live by example and the school gets a thumbs down for setting healthy eating expectations.

  • MichaelJ

    “I know that a taco might not be the most healthy food item for students, but I think it’s a good compromise.”

    Who said we had to compromise?

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